Vikings LB Jordan Hicks aims to return this season after surgery for painfully scary leg injury

EAGAN, Minn. (AP) — Jordan Hicks took a blow to the shin during a routine tackle for the Minnesota Vikings in the first quarter of a game last month and figured he just had a deep bruise.

After returning to action, the ninth-year veteran linebacker began to realize after halftime his right leg was growing weaker. He nearly rolled his ankle while trying to make a cut because his strength was so sapped, prompting him to seek attention on the sideline again.

Once Hicks made it to the training room, with the adrenaline worn off, he spiraled into a cauldron of searing pain that forced him to curl up in the fetal position unable to focus on anything but breathing.

“It is the deepest, darkest ache you can probably imagine,” Hicks said.

The team's medical staff diagnosed him with compartment syndrome, a freak buildup of pressure in and around the muscles caused by internal bleeding or swollen tissues that can cause severe damage or even death if left untreated. So Hicks had to be rushed to a hospital immediately after that game on Nov. 12 against New Orleans and within 15 minutes of his arrival was in emergency surgery.

Doctors left his leg cut open for four days to achieve full healing. He now has a thick scar about a foot long running down his right leg.

After a couple of weeks of mostly resting on the couch, he's been aggressively trying to restore his strength and conditioning. But Hicks said he’s “pretty optimistic” about being able to return to the field this season as long as the rehabilitation process stays on track.

“It was obviously a scary situation. I didn't realize how bad it could've been. I'm thankful for the training staff, for the doctors, for everybody on the sideline making the quick decision to get me to the hospital," Hicks said Thursday in his first interview with reporters since the injury. “I heard the doctor say, ‘It’s a good thing we got you in because you could’ve lost your leg.’”

Hicks was placed on injured reserve three weeks ago. The Vikings (6-6) have five games left in their push for a spot in the playoffs in the crowded NFC wild-card race. The defense has performed well without him, but having the leader of the huddle back in the middle of the field would go a long way toward helping maintain the standard that has been set over the past two months.

Before the injury, Hicks was enjoying one of his finest seasons in the NFL with 87 tackles, a forced fumble, an interception and his first career touchdown on a return of a fumble recovery.

“We’re trying to see how much it can handle. We don’t want to push it too far and have it swell up or anything like that. So each day, there’s a process to it," Hicks said, adding: "Once we’re all comfortable where I’m at, it’s go time.”