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Ex-Vikings star Keith Millard: Ade Aruna's torn ACL gives him 'redshirt' year

Minnesota defensive end Ade Aruna (61) is loaded onto the cart after getting injured against Jacksonville in the second quarter of a NFL Preseason game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018. John Autey / St. Paul Pioneer Press

EAGAN, Minn. — Vikings defensive end Ade Aruna is out for the season with a knee injury, but former all-pro player Keith Millard said the 24-year-old rookie needs to turn his recovery period into a positive experience.

After tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament in the 14-10 preseason loss to Jacksonville at U.S. Bank Stadium on Saturday, Aug. 18, Aruna was placed on injured reserve Monday. Millard, who starred at defensive tackle for the Vikings from 1985-90 and worked Aruna out in preparation for the NFL draft earlier this year, plans to call Aruna to offer advice.

"It's sad, there's no doubt, and I'm sure he's going through a little bit of anguish right now," Millard said. "But I'm going to tell him this could work in his favor. It's like a redshirt season.

"He'll be working with the trainers on a daily basis, and he'll be going to D-line meetings. He'll watch film. It's a chance to watch (Vikings star defensive ends) Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen and learn from those guys."

The 6-foot-5, 263-pound Aruna, taken in the sixth round of the draft out of Tulane, is considered a raw prospect. Born in Nigeria, he came to the United States in 2010 to play basketball, and did not start playing football until his senior year of high school in 2013.

"He's a very, very talented kid," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. "(The injury will) set him back some but on the same token we're going to keep him here for all the meetings and everything, and rehab. I think that part will be good for him because the change to the NFL game was probably his biggest adjustment to make. But he's really talented in everything he can do, so it'll be exciting to get him back next year."

Millard, named all-pro in 1988 and 1989, suffered a torn ACL during his final Vikings season in 1990, and was never the same player again, But Millard, who sat out the 1991 season to recover and then finished his career with Seattle, Green Bay and Philadelphia from 1992-93, said ACL surgery is much different now than from when he played.

Millard worked with Aruna extensively earlier this year in the San Francisco area. He also came to training camp for a day earlier this month and watched him.

"He hasn't played that much football, but as a former defensive line coach, you fall in love with his length, his speed and athleticism," said Millard, who spent 10 seasons as an NFL line coach. "He's a little bit behind in the other stuff, but it's like the canvas before you paint it. Guys like Ade don't come around every day."

Zylstra ready to return

Vikings rookie wide receiver Brandon Zylstra, who missed the first two preseason games with a hamstring strain, said he's close to 100 percent and expects to play in Friday's exhibition against Seattle at U.S. Bank Stadium.

"(The injury was) tough, but it's one of those things that it's kind of out of your control," said the Spicer native. "I've been studying a lot and just watching the other guys and trying to pick up as much as I can."

Zylstra said the Vikings have a "super good receiving corps" and competition will be fierce for final spots on the 53-man roster.

"I've got to control what I can control and do what I can to prove that I can play," he said.

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