Kevin Williams is working his way back onto the field in anticipation of playing Sunday against the Chicago Bears, but the true test of his readiness will come Thursday.
The Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle missed the regular-season opener and preseason finale after suffering a hyperextended knee when he took a blindside block to his right knee in the third preseason game from San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman Joe Looney. Despite several Vikings players calling the block dirty, the NFL said it was a legal block and didn’t fine Looney.
Last Friday, Williams said he was “really hopeful” that he would be able to play against Chicago, even though he had already been ruled out of the regular-season opener at Detroit at that point.
“I’d be shocked if I didn’t play next week,” he said then.
On Wednesday, he went through drills with a sleeve on his right leg, but the team wasn’t in pads and he said his work in the afternoon practice was more about quickness, not putting pressure on the knee.
“Talk to me (on Thursday). Hopefully it won’t be too sore. … Hopefully everything is on track,” Williams said.
“If there are no residuals (Thursday), that’s always positive.”
Without Williams, the Vikings struggled on defense. Detroit running back Reggie Bush had 90 yards rushing on 21 carries and 101 yards receiving on four catches Sunday.
“Kevin is so important to us that his absence, it makes a difference,” Frazier said. “He’s one of the best to ever play the game at his position, so anytime you don’t have him, not only from a performance standpoint but a leadership standpoint as well, it’s going to affect your team. (The Lions) did run the ball effectively against us and having Kevin, I think it would have helped us for sure. I’m glad to have him. Hopefully everything will go fine this week and we’ll have him on Sunday as well.”
Frazier admitted the Vikings struggled to get off blocks in the middle of the defense, but pointed to a change in coaching philosophy, too.
“We’ve got to be able to do things a little bit differently when people take the approach that Detroit took, that they weren’t going to throw the football, that they were going to throw the football down to the running backs or quick routes, slants to the wide receivers, whatever it is,” Frazier said. “We’ve got to employ a different tactic. We didn’t do the things that we need to do to give ourselves a better chance on some of the things they were doing. I’m sure Chicago will take a look at the tape and do something similar. We’ve got to do a better job than what we are doing from a coaching standpoint and give our players a chance to make those plays a little bit better. We’ve got some things that we’ve got to correct because we’re going to see those screens and short passes when you have a pass rush like ours.”
OKLAHOMA STATE SITUATION ‘SAD’
Williams said he hasn’t read a Sports Illustrated story that implicated the Oklahoma State football program of paying players for good plays, sham jobs and other direct payments from 2001 to at least 2011. Williams started 42 games for the Cowboys from 1999-2002 before becoming a first-round draft choice of the Vikings in 2003.
Williams, however, said he has received plenty of texts about the story.
“It’s kind of crazy,” he said. “It’s kind of sad what’s going on.”
Asked if he made a lot of money playing in college, he laughed.
“I wish I did. I wish they paid all the college players, but I don’t know where they’re getting their information from,” he said. “I didn’t receive any money (beyond scholarship).”
KALIL ‘NOT FREAKED OUT’
Left tackle Matt Kalil didn’t have a great start to his second season in the league. After a rough preseason, he admitted last Friday that he might not have taken it seriously enough.
On Wednesday, after another tough outing for Kalil and the offensive line against Detroit, he said he isn’t getting “freaked out.”
“I know what I need to fix. I’ve got my mind straight,” he said. “I’m not freaked out. I had a bad game. … It’s just things you’ve got to fix. Learning football from my brother and my father, you’ve got to forget those things.”
Kalil pointed said he needs to improve his technique and is confident he will perform better in Chicago.
NO MAJOR INJURIES
In addition to Williams being limited, CB Josh Robinson (quad), C John Sullivan (knee) and RT Phil Loadholt (knee) were limited on Wednesday.
LB Larry Dean (shoulder), LB Erin Henderson (heel), S Jamarca Sanford (shoulder) and S Mistral Raymond (shoulder) were full participants but still listed on the injury report.
For the Bears, only CB Charles Tillman (knee) was listed on the injury report. He was limited Wednesday.
Frazier on the league fining Lions DT Ndamukong Suh $100,000 for a low block to the left knee of John Sullivan on Sunday: “That’s the NFL. They handled it and I don’t have to worry about it. They handled it.”
The Vikings signed defensive back Robert Steeples to the practice squad on Wednesday. He will wear No. 26, another indication that the Vikings won’t be bringing back veteran CB Antoine Winfield.
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.