After three torn ACLs, most NFL hopefuls would call it a career. That’s not the case with rookie linebacker Michael Mauti, who’s hoping to inherit the dark horse role this season for the Minnesota Vikings.
Heading into OTAs, Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier announced that there would be an open competition for the starting middle linebacker gig. Among the candidates: Erin Henderson, Audie Cole and Mauti.
Before his third ACL tear back in November, Mauti was considered by many to be a second-round talent who could easily vie for a starting spot in his rookie season. With his recovery nearing its completion, Mauti is considered a serious option to steal the Vikings’ starting “Mike” spot. It won’t come easy, though.
In order to get that opportunity, Mauti’s knee must get back to full strength. While he is expected to be ready for training camp, rushing his knee back into action could be costly for the Vikings’ seventh-round pick. Mauti will be no good to the Vikings if he spends the entire 2013 campaign on the reserve/PUP list. Another serious knee injury could even bring any hope Mauti has of playing in the NFL to an end.
Right now, the Vikings are just glad to have such a promising young talent waiting in the wings for his opportunity to play. If he’s cleared in time for training camp, his presence in the competition will only help single out the best candidate for the job. If he’s not cleared, Mauti will get to watch and learn with the chance to contribute later in the season or in 2013.
Either way, Mauti is a welcomed addition to the Vikings linebacking corps. If all goes as planned, he’ll get his chance to shine when training camp rolls around.