The Vikings will have a couple of high-profile decisions to make this weekend on the status of two Pro Bowl players – their most productive receiver this year (Percy Harvin) and their most productive receiver last year (Sidney Rice).
Vikings coach Brad Childress said at his press conference right after Friday’s practice that he would be listing Harvin as “doubtful,” but about an hour later when the injury report was released, Harvin was questionable.
“He did some things today in a limited fashion, but that thing hasn't completely cleared yet,” Childress said, referring to Harvin’s migraine headaches.
Childress said Harvin’s ankle didn’t seem to be bothering him “significantly,” which is a change from last Friday when Harvin was limping badly in practice and refused to get a magnetic resonance imaging test. That led to Harvin and Childress arguing in practice, but Harvin eventually got an MRI on the injured ankle. He played Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals and had a career-high 126 yards receiving.
Harvin missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday because of migraine headaches, but he practiced on a limited basis Friday.
Rice, who was a Pro Bowl receiver in 2009 with 83 catches for 1,312 yards, hasn’t played a game yet this season after having hip surgery on Aug. 23 and being placed on the physically-unable-to-perform list. He was taken off that list last week and began practicing with the team but wasn’t ready for action against the Cardinals.
“The decision is up to Sidney when he's going to jump back in, so I think we've got him as questionable as well. Just talked to him in the locker room,” Childress said.
Rice said he doesn’t quite have the explosion he wants, but it is gradually returning.
“I feel like I'm still on the same schedule, just not as fast, not as quick. Don't have that explosion that I used to have at this point. But it's getting better, it's coming back. Just like yesterday I opened it up. I'm going to continue to progress and ramp it up,” Rice said.
“… It's a lot better than last week. Everything is getting better, better and better every day. I'll continue to take my time and make sure I'm completely healthy."
Rice said he will practice again Saturday and make a determination at that point. However, he is well aware that he’s in a contract year and doesn’t want to reinjure the hip and end his season.
“It’s huge,” he said. “Definitely I want no setbacks but I also want to help this team as much as I can.”
But he is also weighing that against the desperate state of the Vikings’ season. At 3-5 and with two NFC North opponents the next two Sundays, he would like to be able to help the team win … if he’s able to play at a high level.
“That’s another thing. I don’t want to hurt the team in any way. We’re in a critical position right now. We need all these wins,” he said. “I don’t want to just throw myself out there knowing I can only get 10 plays and we have another receiver down that could have helped the team out a lot more.”
Rice said he is looking forward to getting back out on the field and has been working to re-establish the on-field rapport he built up with QB Brett Favre last year.
The Vikings would have to place him on the 53-man roster Saturday if they think Rice can play on Sunday. They still have a roster spot open if he’s able to play.
“It's really based on how he feels and if he feels like he's got all of his faculties to be able to be capable to be effective playing NFL football. That's the bottom line,” Childress said. “He can practice as much as he wants to and some of the soreness is attributed to playing full-speed football here for two weeks. Like I told you, he practiced very hard (Thursday) and some of it I'm sure is soreness with his hip but he'd have to quantify that for you.”
Starting right CB Asher Allen isn’t likely to play Sunday, as he and safety Jamarca Sanford are listed as doubtful on the injury report.
Sanford suffered a hamstring injury in Sunday’s game, and Allen has been out all week with post-concussion symptoms. Neither of the defensive backs practiced Friday.
Allen suffered his injury when he helped make a tackle on Cardinals running back Tim Hightower toward the end of the third quarter and took a knee to the helmet.
“I was kind of a little bit off after that tackle. Wanted to finish the drive and then get on the sideline and then assess things,” Allen said.
Allen said the staff was keeping an eye on him after that hit and made the determination to pull him a few plays later.
“They saw the hit and so people kind of kept an eye on me and then after that it was just communication between me and the trainers,” Allen said.
With Allen likely out, Chris Cook is expected to make his first start in the base defense.
“I’ve been definitely waiting on this one since preseason, when I first got hurt, and then the second one. I’ve been definitely waiting on this first start,” Cook said.
The second-round draft pick was expected to be the starter at the beginning of the season, as he had a strong start to the preseason, but he ended up tearing the meniscus in each of his knees on separate occasions in the preseason and then upon his return to action early in the season. He is getting closer to 100 percent, but Childress said on Thursday that Cook’s knee likely wouldn’t feel completely recovered until the end of the season.
Cook has played the last three games and started the last two in the nickel defense, but he is hoping to grab hold of this opportunity and play more consistently with increased reps.
“As I said a few weeks ago, it’s all about repetition – being able to move and getting back up to the speed of the game,” he said. “It takes a lot of repetitions to get up to the speed. It’s a fast game, lot of fast guys everywhere you look.”
QB Brett Favre (ankle, foot, calf), DT Pat Williams (elbow), DE Everson Griffen (shoulder), T Phil Loadholt (knee), CB Lito Sheppard (hand) and CB Frank Walker (hamstring) are all probable.
For the Bears, CB Zackary Bowman (foot) and C Olin Kreutz (hamstring) are questionable.
Childress said he believes that Favre has his mind set on retiring after the season, as Favre has consistently indicated throughout the past couple of months, but Childress cautioned that it’s only halfway through the season. “I think he's got his head pretty well set on it. That's what he's saying and he's said from the very start,” Childress said.
Childress said he still hasn’t heard a word from the NFL about the league’s investigation into allegations that Favre sent inappropriate messages and photos to former New York Jets employee Jenn Sterger when both were employed by the Jets in 2008.
“Not a peep, no. I know what's basically being reported,” Childress said. “That's all I know.”
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.