Vikings guard Geoff Schwartz returned to practice Monday for the first time since his sports hernia surgery on Aug. 7.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said on Sunday that he hoped to have Schwartz back at practice next week, so Schwartz’s return the next day came as a bit of a surprise, even if it was on a limited basis. After the surgery, Frazier was told Schwartz would be out four to six weeks.
“We’re going to see how he progresses this week,” Frazier said Sunday. “The fact that he was moving around today and moving around as well as he was gives us some hope that next week he’ll be able to practice. We’ll just see how he progresses.”
Schwartz won't play Thursday, but after seeing Schwartz go through individual drills on Monday Frazier was eyeing next week's preparation for the regular-season on Sept. 9 againt the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“If he can have a good full week of work with our team, then you feel much better about him participating (Sept. 9). So we’ll see how it goes,” Frazier said.
“He did pretty good. It’s encouraging. It looks like we may be able to get some good quality work out of him when we have to prepare for our season opener. He moved around pretty good in the individual drills that we put him through. We didn’t put him through any team stuff, but in the individual stuff, the drills, he looked pretty good.”
Schwartz signed a one-year contract with the Vikings after missing the entire 2011 season with the Carolina Panthers because of a hip injury.
He was expected to challenge second-year Viking Brandon Fusco for the starting spot at right guard, a position previously held by Anthony Herrera, whom the Vikings released in March.
The Vikings held back five defensive backs from practice Monday because of injuries.
Mistral Raymond, who was expected to win the starting job at safety, is dealing with back spasms. Defensive coordinator Alan Williams said Raymond looked like a starter before the lower back pain flared up during pregame warmups Friday night, causing the team to make him a late deactivation.
“I wish he would have played the last ballgame to see if he would have been able to carry over what he did from the Bills game because he did play well that ball game. He looked like a starter to me that ballgame,” Williams said.
The third and fourth cornerbacks in the rotation were also held out Monday. Veteran Chris Carr, like Raymond, is also dealing with lower back pain. Rookie third-round pick Josh Robinson, who was also considered one of the primary reserves, suffered a concussion Friday night.
“One has a ton of experience, one plays inside … plays in the nickel spot. Josh, so far, is primarily on the outside,” Williams said. “It’s hard to evaluate the differences because Josh hadn’t had a ton of reps and a ton of plays. Josh is unbelievably fast; he runs as well as anyone in the NFL. Josh has shown that he tackles well. Chris is an effective tackler. He gets guys on the ground. Really, Chris just has experience on him at this point.”
Cornerback Marcus Sherels, who is the leading candidate as a punt returner, and reserve safety Andrew Sendejo are both dealing with sprained ankles.
With the Vikings resting most of their starters, available bodies for the fourth preseason game Thursday night could be an issue in the secondary.
“Next-man-up mentality. Whoever is in there, we expect the guys to play well,” Williams said. “We’re not sure just yet. Some guys are licking their wounds and getting healed up and we’ll see what happens when Wednesday rolls around and we head down to Houston and then there’s one more day for guys to get better so we’ll see.”
Fullback Ryan D’Imperio continued to be held out of practice Monday with a shoulder injury.
Frazier said Raymond, Sendejo, Sherels and Robinson won't play Thursday night.
Letroy Guion isn’t expected to play in the preseason finale, but he was taking first-team reps with the defensive line early in Monday’s practice.
G Brandon Fusco and S Harrison Smith are two of the young starters under consideration to play in the preseason finale. Most of the other starters are expected to be held out, including first-round pick Matt Kalil.
The Vikings are adding CB Reggie Jones to the punt-return mix for Thursday’s game. Jones has occasionally taken reps returning punts in training camp practices, as well, but he isn’t among the four Vikings to have a punt return this preseason.
RB Jordan Todman might get a chance to return a kickoff or two Thursday.
The Cleveland Browns claimed former Vikings defensive lineman Ernest Owusu. Owusu, signed as an undrafted rookie out of California, was the first of the 15 Vikings waived on Saturday to be claimed by another team.
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.