EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) -Many NFL players dread June, having to practice without pads during mandatory minicamps across the league.
Then there's Mike Doss. The former Indianapolis Colts star safety was downright giddy when he stepped on the field for the Minnesota Vikings this weekend.
It's been a long road back for Doss, who was limited to six games for the Colts last season after a knee injury against Washington.
``I was anxious just to get out here and run with some guys,'' Doss said Saturday. ``I've been rehabbing for seven months and running by myself and doing a lot of things by myself. It feels good just to be actually on the field with 10 other guys, knowing that you're all working for the same cause. I just feel good to be part of that again.''
During his first three seasons after winning a national championship at Ohio State, Doss had the look of a rising star. He had 102 tackles in his rookie season and helped turn the Colts defense from a glaring weakness to a respectable unit.
But injuries caused him to lose his starting job to Antoine Bethea in training camp last year, and a torn knee ligament ended his season in October, leaving Doss to watch from the sidelines while his teammates won the Super Bowl.
In the offseason, Doss followed defensive backs coach Leslie Frazier to Minnesota after the Vikings hired Frazier to run the defense.
So far, Doss said, his knee feels fine, and he's surprised Frazier with how quickly he has recovered. Doss has been participating in each morning practice and sitting out each afternoon, but he has shown no signs of pain.
``Knowing Mike and the way he works I wasn't surprised about that,'' Frazier said. ``But still to see him out on the field cutting, turning, and running, it's amazing to me.''
Doss has also helped smooth the transition for Frazier. Beloved defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin left after just one season to coach the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Vikings turned to Frazier to step in.
``I feel very comfortable with him, and I know what he can do,'' Frazier said. ``It's unfortunate he had the injury that he had, but I'm really pleased with the way he's worked. There is a certain comfort level there because of our history together.''
Exactly where Doss will fit in with the Vikings remains to be seen. They are loaded at safety with returning starters Darren Sharper and Dwight Smith and veteran Tank Williams, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, already on the roster.
But Sharper sees a role for him.
``He'll help out with depth. That's something we always need,'' Sharper said. ``He has a familiarity with coach Frazier and the scheme he's bringing over from Indy. So he can kind of bridge that gap and that's going to definitely help us out as a defense.''
Frazier likes Doss' ``intelligence and football instincts'' and thinks he can help improve a secondary that struggled to stop the pass last season, thanks in large part to a lack of pass rush.
``He has great leadership qualities in the locker room and on the field, and we're going to need that,'' Frazier said. ``In order for us to improve our pass defense we need a solid guy who is a bright guy but who is also a leader, and he brings those qualities to the table.''
Whether Doss starts or not, he's just happy to be back out on the field after an injury that has ended many a career.
``I love the game and that's what it's about,'' he said. ``It's still a kid's game. Getting to play football out here is something I love to do. I'm just enjoying it every time I step on the field.''

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