Vikings Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kevin Williams suffered an isolated sprain of the medial collateral ligament in his right knee Sunday against Cleveland. He is expected to miss two weeks.
Coach Mike Tice said it was a second-degree sprain — Tice pointed out he suffered a more serious third-degree sprain of his MCL three weeks ago when he was upended on the sideline at Giants Stadium — and that Williams was likely to miss Sunday’s game at Detroit and the Dec. 11 meeting with St. Louis at the Metrodome.
“He said to me that he felt better (Monday) and there didn’t seem to be much swelling in there,” Tice said.
Williams, who led all NFL defensive tackles with 11.5 sacks last season and earned All-Pro honors, has failed to make the same type of impact this season. Despite playing alongside nose tackle Pat Williams, who is putting together a Pro Bowl-type season after signing as a free agent during the offseason, Kevin Williams has only one sack.
One potential issue has been the fact Williams underwent offseason knee surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his knee. That stopped him from being involved in the Vikings’ offseason workout program and caused him to report to camp heavier than his listed playing weight of 311 pounds.
Although Williams remains listed at 311, his conditioning has looked suspect during games and he has had to pull himself out for stretches to rest.
Williams will be replaced by rookie C.J. Mosley. The sixth-round pick from Missouri was impressive Sunday, recording two sacks, forcing a fumble and tying for the team lead with seven tackles.
Defensive lineman Spencer Johnson also will get back on the field after missing six of the past seven games because of a knee injury. Johnson, who can play both on the inside and at end, will be used in a backup role.
Coach Mike Tice wasn’t pleased to hear that the Detroit Lions had dismissed coach Steve Mariucci on Monday. The Vikings play the Lions in Detroit on Sunday, and Tice isn’t looking forward to facing a struggling team that could get a jolt of motivation. “It’s unfortunate coach Mariucci was replaced,” Tice said. “It’s not good for us as a football team to walk into a hornets’ nest where the team loses its leader and is probably going to rally around who this guy is, so we catch this team on the wrong week. That’s not a good thing.”
Defensive end Lance Johnstone, a pass rush specialist who leads the Vikings with 6.5 sacks this season, feels the team’s turnaround on defense is the result of the unit needing time to get used to many offseason changes. “I think everybody was trying to get a feel for the defense,” he said. “We had a lot of new starters come in and we were hoping to jell quicker than we did early in the season. But now I think everybody knows where they are supposed to be and knows that the other guy is going to be there. So we are playing a lot faster.”
Darren Sharper picked off Charlie Frye’s only pass of Sunday’s game in the fourth quarter. That didn’t come as a surprise to the free safety. “I love rookie quarterbacks, love them to death,” Sharper said. “Whenever you get an opportunity (against) a young guy, especially me, I know how to kind of play a little bit of games with them. You saw right there, he just kind of threw it over the middle. You really can’t do that. Not against our defense, you can’t do that.”
Rookie C.J. Mosley was selected by the Vikings in the sixth round when he decided to leave Missouri after three years. But Mosley’s early exit from college doesn’t mean defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell considers the defensive tackle to be in a developmental year. “I can’t worry about that,” Cottrell said. “I’m worried about this year. I’m not worried about his future, I’m worried about mine.”
WR Troy Williamson, the seventh overall pick in April’s draft, apparently has landed in Tice’s doghouse. Williamson suffered a shoulder injury in the Vikings’ victory at Green Bay on Nov. 21, but it wasn’t thought to be severe enough to keep him out of Sunday’s win over Cleveland. Williamson, however, took himself out of practice Wednesday, a move that didn’t seem to sit well with the coach.
“Troy hurt his shoulder and tapped out Wednesday,” Tice said. “He’s back there taking a knee. (Athletic trainer Chuck Barta) thought I told him not to practice, and I thought Chuck told him not to practice. So at the end of practice, we compared notes, and Troy told himself not to practice. So when he checked out Wednesday, I shut him down for the week, and figured the injury was bothering him enough that he felt he shouldn’t practice.”
Tice said because of the current way he has set his game-day roster, Williams likely will remain inactive.
CB Fred Smoot had a CT scan Monday on his fractured right collarbone. Smoot has missed the past three games because of the injury and might be able to return Sunday at Detroit.
DE Darrion Scott could see more time inside with DT Kevin Williams (knee) out. DL Spencer Johnson (knee) also will help replace Williams, although C.J. Mosley will get the start.