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Thu, 30 Aug 2012 02:30 AM EDT

While the Minnesota Vikings conducted practices this past month, John Carlson studied from behind the huddle, a white ball cap on his 6-foot-5 frame signaling his nonparticipation in the drills. Basketball lines

As closely as he studied his new team’s playbook and tried to understand his assignments, Carlson’s sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee kept him from full immersion in the offense until returning to the field this week. With the season opener less than 2 weeks away, Carlson has lots of catching up to do.

”I’m kind of feeling my way through things at certain times but I think the more reps I get the more comfortable I will get,” Carlson related, his 1st full-pad workout since he was hurt on July 31. ”I was at each practice. I watched all of the team periods. I went to all the meetings and that stuff, but it’s different to learn an offense on paper or to watch it as opposed to taking the physical reps, communicating with the tackle, seeing and reading coverages, running the correct route, making the proper adjustments. I need to get that very fast, but it’ll come.”

The Vikings (29th in the AP Pro32 rankings) carefully restocked their roster this year, usually using their 10 draft picks and one year prove-it contracts on veterans to fill in the holes.

Carlson was the exception, signed to a 5-year contract worth as much as $25 million, though only about $9 million is warranted. The Litchfield, Minn, local and Notre dame product missed last season with Seattle because of a torn labrum in his left shoulder. So he hasn’t played in a real NFL game since the Seahawks were in the playoffs after the 2010 season.

”Well, injuries happen in football. I’ve kind of had a string of them here, but I’m trying to do my best to put my best foot forward and forget about what’s happened in the past and try to get back to 100 percent and concentrate on what’s ahead,” Carlson said.

”I think he’s more comfortable with that brace now. So I think he is going to be all right,” Coach Leslie Frazier announced. ”We’ve just got to keep stacking days on top of each other, but he was better today.”

With the prevalence of two tight-end sets in their offense, the Vikings signed Carlson to pair with Kyle Rudolph, a fellow former Fighting Irish star. They have the sort of pass-catching and route-running skills to beat linebackers in man-to-man coverage and give QB Christian Ponder some options to throw to, provided of course they can remain healthy.

Carlson’s former Notre dame roommate, Minnesota Vikings center John Sullivan, has not been anxious about his buddy’s ability to bounce back.

”He’s always in shape, which is a very big part of the battle when you miss that much time,” Sullivan announced, adding: ”He’s a really experienced guy. He is an extraordinarily smart guy. He has been in this league for a long period of time so I am sure that’ll be easy for him to get into playing shape mentally and physically.”

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