It’s a story that happens all around the NFL every week. Players get injured on Sunday, calls go out to veterans on Monday, they try out and sign on Tuesday. Then the hard work of learning a new team’s system begins, a task that is especially tough when the new player is a center with all of the protection and other calls that have to come from that position. Other than quarterback it’s the toughest transition in the NFL.
But new Redskins center John Sullivan doesn’t seem to be that worried about it.
“It just takes time to get calls down,” said the former Viking. “Essentially, most football’s the same. There are certain changes here and there I’ve played in a few systems so there’s some carry over more from the first system I was in in Minnesota. But it’s just getting Bill [Callahan’s] calls down, Bill’s techniques, all that stuff. The guys are helping me along and Bill is doing a good job so I think I’ll have them pretty quick.”
Sullivan certainly has a lot of experience in football. From 2008-2014 he started 93 of a possible 96 games at center for the Vikings. But he missed all of the 2015 season after having back surgery. He returned to Minnesota this year but he was released on August 30. He says his health hasn’t been an issue going back to the start of offseason work in April.
“At that point, you get through a couple of days not feeling any restrictions and you start to really forget about it,” he said.
Now it’s time for the crash course in Gruden/McVay/Callahan Offense 101.
“I feel like I’m back in training camp, trying to learn an offense, spending a lot of time here at the facility and staying in a hotel room close by,” said Sullivan. “It’s a little bit different but it’s exciting all the same.”
It remains to be seen what role Sullivan will play. With Kory Lichtensteiger out for at least eight weeks the starting center job is vacant. Spencer Long can start there and he may be the long-term answer at the position. But while left guard Shawn Lauvao is sidelined with an ankle injury the logical move is to have Long, who started 13 games at left guard last year, play there. That would open up center for Sullivan.
Stay tuned. For strategic reasons there is no reason for Gruden to announce anything about his starting offensive line in advance of when the offense takes the field for the first time against the Browns. We may not know until then.