While the Washington Redskins had no players limited or out of practice on Tuesday, the Minnesota Vikings’ injury report remained large and daunting.
On their only full day of practice this week coming off a 27-23 loss to the Dallas Cowboys Sunday and preparing for a home game against the Washington Redskins, the Vikings had eight players that didn’t practice at all during full-team work Tuesday and another three that were limited.
No place was worse off than their defensive backfield, and that doesn’t even include their best player there, safety Harrison Smith, who is on the injured reserve list with a designation to return in December.
Starting safety Jamarca Sanford hasn’t practiced in full in two weeks and was out once again because a groin injury suffered nearly three weeks ago. Three other key members of the secondary – starting cornerbacks Chris Cook (hip) and Josh Robinson (chest) and nickel cornerback Xavier Rhodes (shoulder) – were all limited with their injuries. Rhodes and Robinson both suffered their injuries Sunday against Dallas while Cook hasn’t practice in full since before the Green Bay Packers game on Oct. 27.
Head coach Leslie Frazier expected Robinson and Rhodes to play but was withholding judgment on Sanford and Cook.
The injury concerns hardly stopped in the secondary. Both the offensive and defensive lines had multiple contributors that didn’t practice Tuesday.
On the offensive line, Phil Loadholt will be ruled out after suffering a concussion in the second quarter of Sunday’s game and Charlie Johnson also didn’t practice after incurring an elbow injury against the Cowboys. Johnson didn’t miss any snaps Sunday, but he hasn’t practiced this week. J’Marcus Webb will take Loadholt’s place at right tackle and Joe Berger will man Johnson’s spot at left guard if he can’t make it. Frazier said he expected Johnson to be ready to go before Tuesday’s practice, but he didn’t participate.
There is a good chance the Viking will elevate Kevin Murphy from the practice squad with no true tackles in reserve on the active roster. It also could mean rookie Jeff Baca would be making his debut on the game-day actives if Johnson can’t go.
On the defensive line, starting nose tackle Letroy Guion was out with chest and knee injuries and Fred Evans continues to deal with a knee injury that has plagued him the last two weeks.
The tight end corps also has multiple injuries. Pro Bowler Kyle Rudolph will miss four to six weeks with a fractured foot suffered on his touchdown catch in Dallas, and Rhett Ellison, a key blocking tight end, continues to miss practices with an ankle injury.
RB Matt Asiata also missed Tuesday with a shoulder injury.
In essence they missed an entire week of installation because the Viking essentially compressed their normal Wednesday, Thursday and Friday practices into Tuesday.
“Short week, condensing everything down and putting together our game plan for this ball game,” Frazier said. “It’s very different when you’re preparing for a Thursday as opposed to a Sunday afternoon game. A lot to get done.”
On Wednesday, the Vikings will issue an injury report declaring the probability of those injured players being able to go, but if all of those limited or out of Tuesday’s practice aren’t healthy enough by Thurday, it would mean 11 of the Vikings’ 22 opening-day starters would miss the nationally televised game – Johnson, Loadholt, Rudolph and Ellison on offense, and Guion, Evans, Cook, Robinson, Rhodes and Sanford and Smith on defense.
Frazier said his leadership committee is even more important in trying times, like the team is experiencing with a 1-7 start.
“We’ll sit down and we’ll talk through where our team is and what’s going on around us and try and make sure we are engaged in the moment and not getting caught up in what’s happened in the previous week or what could happen in the weeks to come,” he said. “I rely on them heavily to influence our locker room in the right way. I have no chance if I don’t have their support in what we’re trying to get done. Yes, I count on them in a big way.”
After a few defenders expressed their concerns to the media about the defensive calls that were made in the Cowboys’ game-winning drive, Frazier said he welcomes it when players express their concerns to the coaching staff.
“I like it when they come and talk to me. It’s important. I want them to share their thoughts and concerns,” he said. “It’s the only way we can resolve whatever issues there may be. I encourage it. They know I do. There’s a way to handle those moments and we talked about some of that (Monday).”
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed former Vikings CB Bobby Felder to their practice squad. The Bucs claimed Felder when the Vikings waived him off injured reserve. However, the Bucs, too, placed him on waivers Monday and officially re-signed him to their practice squad Tuesday when he cleared waivers.
Former Vikings offensive tackle DeMarcus Love went unclaimed after the Jacksonville Jaguars placed him on waivers.
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.