Offord Likely Done For Season

Safety Willie Offord's season is likely finished after injuring his knee in Sunday's win over New Orleans.

The Vikings came away with a handful of injuries in yesterday's game against New Orleans, but they were most concerned with the knee injury sustained by safety Willie Offord. Turns out, they had reason for concern.

An MRI Monday revealed a torn ACL for Offord, almost certainly ending his season. Head coach Mike Tice wasn't ready to rule the safety out for the season at his press conference Monday afternoon, but he said the Vikings have a plan if Offord has to have surgery.

"If that is the case, that Willie does have to have surgery or something, Will will be promoted tomorrow," Tice said of Will Hunter, who is on the practice squad. "He has done really well in practice and now he needs to carry that over to the field."

Hunter was signed to the Vikings' practice squad for the final five games of the 2004 season and both playoff games. He entered the NFL as a rookie free agent with the New York Jets in 2003.

The loss of Offord causes more concern in a defensive backfield that is thinning quickly.

Safety Darren Sharper missed Sunday's game with his own knee injury and didn't sound too optimistic Monday.

"We still have another week to see how it's going to respond. I'm not too excited, though, right now," Sharper said. "Now it's a depth issue because we lost a good player in Willie. Saying that, too, I know the coaches and trainers want to be smart because you don't want to risk further damage by going out too early."

Offord told Viking Update Sunday that he was injured when his foot caught in the FieldTurf while covering a kickoff. He had started against New Orleans due to Sharper's injury.

With Offord out, Sharper might feel a little more pressure to play Sunday at Atlanta, but he said the decision will come down to how good he feels.

"You might hurt the team, you might hurt yourself. I'm not going to put myself in that situation, especially this early in the season," Sharper said. "Even though it is a tough NFC opponent like Atlanta, you have to think about all those things before you make a decision."

"Knowing it from previous injuries, the only thing that's going to help it is time."

If Sharper can't play Sunday, Ken Irvin would be the likely starter at free safety.

Offord, the special teams captain, is second on the defense with three passes defensed and three quarterback hurries, and also has an interception and six tackles.


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