EAGAN — When Golden State Warriors superstar forward Kevin Durant went down with a devastating Achilles injury on Monday night in the NBA Finals, Minnesota Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs was crushed. Diggs and Durant are both from the D.C. area and Diggs has long been a fan of Durant’s game.
“I was hurt, I love KD,” Diggs said following minicamp practice on Tuesday. “Definitely from the standpoint of being a player that plays a physical sport, going out when you’re in pain or you’re hurt, I know what it’s like to be out there giving everything you’ve got for your team/ To see him go down is definitely….it’s a little heartbreaking. Prayers up for him. I know he’s going to come back stronger and he’s still one of the best players in the NBA.”
Over the past three years Diggs has battled injuries on and off. Last year he was forced to miss one game because of a rib injury. In 2016 he played through a hamstring issue that lingered throughout the year.
“As a player, it’s kind of hard to turn your back on your team especially when they need you, especially in a situation like that,” Diggs said. “But in the NFL, like playoff games, you only get one game. In the NBA you can kind of take a little second but we only get one opportunity. So for him to go back when they needed him most it says a lot of him as a character, as a man and as a teammate. He always had my respect but like when you get hurt you can’t say much. I would have did the same for my teammates. I know I’ve done it, I’ve been hurt. But when your guys need you to not only lead but be out there and play well, you’ve got to go. That’s just how this business is. You get paid to do it.”
Around the sports media world on Tuesday, the question is being asked whether Durant should have been sent out onto the court with a previous calf injury. The Vikings have been questioned in similar fashion over the past few seasons. In 2018 running back Dalvin Cook re-aggravated a hamstring injury after an attempt to use him on a “pitch count” and in 2017 Sam Bradford’s season ended following a game in Chicago in which he was pulled in the first half due to struggles with a knee injury.
“People want to know if you can play or not and if you play they want you to play well,” Diggs said. “As far as like being sensitive to the topic, they don’t really care.”
Not long after Durant suffered his injury in Game 5 of the Finals, tight end Kyle Rudolph announced that he signed a new long-term extension with the Vikings. It wasn’t lost on Rudolph that he’s pushed through seriously injuries in the past and has fought through dings and cuts to stay on the field for 16 games in each of the last three seasons. He even pushed head coach Mike Zimmer to allow him to keep the streak alive late in the 2017 season in a game against Cincinnati.
“I can’t tell you how sick I was when I saw Kevin Durant get hurt, I knew it right away,” Rudolph said. “That’s the tough part about sports. As athletes, we’ve all done it. You can do everything you can, especially in a championship series, to get back out there. The reason why we do this is because of the guys in that locker room, because of the coaches that we go to work with every day. I’ve said this a couple of times early in my career when I dealt with injuries, there’s nothing worse than, as an athlete, being hurt. Because you put so much work into this, and you can’t be out there with your teammates, guys you just want to go to battle with.
While Rudolph doesn’t have the same connection to Durant as Diggs, he expressed similar admiration for the Warriors’ star for attempting to come back after sitting 33 days with his previous ailment.
“The courage that he showed to go back out there and play hurt, and then you see him go down early in the second quarter, and it just makes you sick,” Rudolph said.