Linebacker Erin Henderson is inactive, as expected, increasing the role for three linebackers below…
Henderson ruled out, Ponder probable
Ponder had participated fully in Wednesday's practice and hasn't missed an offensive snap for the Vikings this season. Ponder will start Sunday and is officially listed as probable on the injury report.
"He mentioned it on Wednesday it was sorer than normal so he went it got it checked out and ended up practicing and he's been good ever since," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said.
Linebacker Erin Henderson missed a third straight day of practice Friday after suffering a concussion Sept. 16 against the Indianapolis Colts and the Vikings rules him out for Sunday's game. Marvin Mitchell will take his snaps again in the base defense with Jasper Brinkley staying on the field in nickel situations alongside Chad Greenway.
"(Brinkley) did a nice job. Jasper is coming along just like we thought he would and just like the coaches thought he would," defensive coordinator Alan Williams said. "Each week I think he's getting more comfortable in his own skin in terms of running the defense, in terms of calling the plays in the huddle and he's moving consistently better each week. That's what we want, consistent progress. That's what we're seeing from him week-to-week."
Frazier said Thursday he was still holding out hope that Henderson would pass his concussion test and be available, but that didn't happen, relegating him to a practice observer.
"He's pretty far into it (the post-concussion testing). He just today still wasn't able to pass the test that they gave him so we'll have to wait a little bit longer," Frazier said. "… He's had two other concussions so you just hope that things will be a little better next week and we'll see. We'll see where he's at next week.
Safety Mistral Raymond (ankle) is still about a month away from playing after his ankle injury suffered Sunday. He walked through the locker room Friday with an air cast on his lower leg. Andrew Sendejo returned to practice Friday on a limited basis after sitting out Thursday with his ankle injury. He is listed as questionable, along with defensive end D'Aundre Reed, who was a full participant Friday.
HARVIN SEES THE POTENTIAL
With Jerome Simpson set to play his first game as a Viking after serving a three-game suspension, the Vikings offense will have the receiving weapons coaches and players envisioned during the offseason.
"Let's party. It's another weapon," Harvin said earlier in the week. "We'll welcome him back. It's something for us to keep going, and for us to keep going we need all our weapons."
Frazier said there will be no "pitch count" for Simpson on Sunday.
"We're going to let him play. We have some things in there for him and see how he does, just keep talking to him throughout the game and see how he is coming along from a fatigue standpoint," Frazier said.
Harvin leads the NFL in receptions, but he doesn't have any touchdowns. Tight end Kyle Rudolph leads the Vikings with three touchdown receptions, including two Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.
"He's a big target. I preach to them all the time I want to see him in the conversation with the Aaron Hernandezes and the (Jimmy) Grahams," Harvin said. "He told me he'll be there at the end, so, like I say, he's working very hard. We're going to need him to keep producing for us."
The Vikings haven't gotten any catches out of tight end John Carlson yet. The Vikings' most expensive free-agent acquisition of the offseason, who signed a five-year, $25 million contract, has been targeted only two times in three games. The coaching staff and Ponder maintain they want to get him more involved and his 29 snaps Sunday were easily the most he's had after having 18 in each of the first two games.
The Vikings had a pass play called for Carlson on Sunday, but linebacker Patrick Willis had him covered down the right sideline, opening up the middle of the field for Ponder on his 23-yard touchdown run.
"Christian made a good decision, didn't force it when it was covered and created really where our chalk ended on the chalkboard," offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said.
"I think he's doing a good job. The chips just haven't fallen in the right spot for him to receive a ball, but they will. He's going to get plenty of touches. They just haven't happened yet."
DEFENDING THE RETURN
After being solid with their kick coverage in the first two weeks of the season, the Vikings gave up kick returns of 94 and 50 yards to Kyle Williams in the San Francisco game. What happened?
"Number one, they blocked us up well and we knew going in they were very good at it. (Williams) is a very good returner. We did not do a great job with lane integrity, we had guys on the ground, we got trapped and that's stuff that we worked on those exact returns during the week," special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said. "That's one of their staples, one of their better returns and we didn't fit on it well and we didn't have great lane discipline unfortunately and it hurt our football team, but they responded well, our defense responded well."
Priefer said he isn't planning on changing personnel in reaction to Williams' returns, calling them "a nice little kick in the butt" to improve.
‘TOO AGGRESSIVE' NOT A TERM
Harvin has returned eight kickoffs this year and brought several of them out of the end zone that were 8 or 9 yards deep. But with his speed and ability, there aren't many times that Priefer will instruct Harvin to down the ball for a touchback.
"To me, too aggressive is not a term," Priefer said. "We're going to be aggressive, we're going to get after it and we're going to bring it out when we have an opportunity to bring it out and I think the only way we keep them in is determined by situation – up by 10 (points), four minutes to go in the game, let's give the ball to the offense at the 20, try to grind it out in the four minute situation."
Henderson and Raymond were the only Vikings ruled out on Friday while Sendejo and Reed were questionable. Four players – Rudolph (thigh), DE Jared Allen (neck) and Mitchell (ankle) joined Ponder as being listed as probable on the injury report. Sendejo was only the player not ruled out who was limited on Friday.
For the Lions, DT Corey Williams (knee) was ruled out while S Louis Delmas (knee) and LB Travis Lewis (quad) are doubtful.
Four are listed as questionable: LB Justin Durant (back), RB Mikel Leshoure (groin), TE Tony Scheffler (calf) and S Amari Spievey (groin).
All the other Lions on injury report are probable: QB Matthew Stafford, WR Calvin Johnson, WR Titus Young, DE Lawrence Jackson, T Corey Hilliard and G Rob Sims.
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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