Jamarca Sanford knows the score, even if the coaches are trying to keep things under wraps.
The Vikings' starting safety tandem is expected to be Mistral Raymond alongside Harrison Smith, despite Sanford's best efforts.
"If he's ready to go, he's going," Sanford said of Raymond, who missed the final two preseason games with back spasms. "I'm still going to approach it like I'm still a starter and prepare like he prepares and just be ready on call.
"Yeah, it's frustrating, but it's part of the game. You've just got to go play my role on the team and go out and play (special teams) and just make plays wherever I am on the field."
The starting safety next to Smith was the only remaining question when it came to the Vikings' starting lineups on offense and defense. Raymond performed well before his injury, but he wasn't listed on Wednesday's injury report.
Sanford finished as the team's third-leading tackler last year after working into a starting role. He had 118 tackles, joining E.J. Henderson (130) and Chad Greenway (174) as the only Vikings to surpass the 100-tackle mark.
Last year, Sanford beat out Tyrell Johnson for a starting spot alongside Husain Abdullah. Johnson and Abdullah are both no longer on the team. Raymond, a rookie in 2011, started the final five games alongside Sanford after both Johnson and Abdullah had injuries end their seasons.
Those injuries let Sanford know that although he won't be a starter Sunday against Jacksonville, he could easily find himself in that role at some point this season.
"Last year, we had a lot of injuries and you've just got to stay focused and prepare like a starter," Sanford said. "You never know when your number (is called). Anybody can go down for a play and the next thing you know I'm in there the whole game. You've just got to prepare like a starter.
"I'd be lying to you if I said it would be easy, but coming from a starter and then (not) starting this year, it hurt. It was one of my goals. Things happen. I worked hard and gave it my all. I'm just looking forward to going out and making plays on special teams this week."
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier wasn't ready to reveal the starters before Wednesday's practice, waiting to see how Raymond looked in his return from his back injury, but Raymond didn't appear on the injury report.
"First of all, you want to make sure that there are no complications from the time that he missed with the injury that he had and then we want to see him move around a little bit, make some plays in practice and just show us that he is back into it a little bit," Frazier said.
Frazier said he told Sanford to be patient and that no decision had been made.
Sanford, who made 15 starts last year, played more than any other safety last year and said that experience gave him a better idea of what he needs to improve.
"I worked on my ball skills this offseason and covering. I got a lot better covering," Sanford said. "That's something they told me, they wanted to see me cover the tight ends a lot better. I got better at it and every day I've just got to critique myself."
The Vikings had three players sit out Wednesday's practice, all with sprained ankles: LB Marvin Mitchell, S Andrew Sendejo and WR Jarius Wright (ankle).
RB Adrian Peterson (knee) and CB Marcus Sherels (ankle) were limited. Frazier said Monday that Peterson would be a "game-time decision" whether he plays for the first time in 2012.
S Robert Blanton (hamstring), TE John Carlson (knee), DT Letroy Guion (knee) and G Geoff Schwartz (abdomen) were all full participants in practice.
For the Jaguars, DE Austen Lane (foot), C Brad Meester (not injury-related), DE Aaron Morgan (not injury-related) and DE George Selvie (knee) didn't practice. WR Justin Blackmon (ankle), CB Derek Cox (hamstring). CB Mike Harris (hamstring) and G Uche Nwaneri (ankle) were limited.
The New England Patriots placed TE Visanthe Shiancoe on injured reserve and designated him to return later this season, a new designation this year with one player per team that is placed on injured reserve after the preseason concludes. The Patriots signed TE Michael Hoomanawanui in his place.
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.
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