MINNEAPOLIS -- After four preseason games and one date with Detroit's notorious Ndamukong Suh, the Vikings are probably sick of being in the national spotlight as victims of low blocks.
It started in their first preseason game, when a shot to rookie Sharrif Floyd's knee caused him to eventually need surgery and miss the team's final two preseason games. It continued on Aug. 25 in San Francisco, when the 49ers' Joe Looney went low on six-time Pro Bowler Kevin Williams, who missed the Vikings' regular season opener after a hit that the NFL deemed was legal.
Things reached their climax on Sunday, when Suh took a low shot at center John Sullivan's left knee on an interception return in the second quarter. Considering Sullivan had offseason microfracture surgery on the same knee, he knew things could have been much worse.
"It looked like it could have led to a pretty serious injury, so I feel like I’m pretty lucky today to be relatively unscathed," Sullivan said on Monday.
He escaped the block with nothing more than a bruise, and as it turns out, Suh might have come out worse for it. The NFL fined him $100,000 on Tuesday, hammering him for the sixth time during his four years in the league. It's a steep penalty that certainly owes something to Suh's status as a repeat offender. But for the Vikings, it probably also brings some relief.
As interior linemen go, Floyd, Williams and Sullivan is about as valuable a trio as the Vikings -- or any team -- could have. Sullivan played at a Pro Bowl level last year, Williams might be on a trajectory to reach the Hall of Fame and Floyd (the Vikings' top pick in the 2013 draft) could eventually replace him as the team's starting under tackle. The fact that the two defensive tackles missed time because of the hits already had Vikings' players at their wits' end, and losing Sullivan for an extended period of time could have been a major blow, as well.
But the Vikings appear to have dodged that bullet, and with the news of Suh's fine, they might be able to move on feeling like justice had been served.
"I think guys get caught up in the play sometimes. Sometimes things happen. It’s hard to remember what you did when you get caught up in the moment," said Sullivan, who added that Suh apologized to him at halftime on Sunday. "I appreciate the fact he came up and said something."