EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings are preparing to play the undefeated Green Bay Packers without their top cornerback and starters at center and safety.
The Vikings listed cornerback Antoine Winfield, center John Sullivan and safety Jamarca Sanford as doubtful for the game Sunday against the Packers. Barring significant improvements from all three players on Saturday, they will not play.
Winfield, who has already missed three straight games with a neck injury, practiced on a limited basis all week. Coach Leslie Frazier said the injury showed improvement, but not enough to make him optimistic for this weekend.
“He moved around a little bit,” Frazier said. “We’ll see how he feels (Saturday), but I’d say he’s doubtful for the game on Sunday.”
Sanford and Sullivan both came out against Chicago last weekend with concussions and have yet to pass the required tests to be cleared to play.
Assuming Sanford will not play, the Vikings (1-5) will go into the game against the pass-heavy Packers without half of their starting secondary. Tyrell Johnson would start for Sanford, while the Vikings would continue to use a combination of Chris Cook and Asher Allen to fill in for Winfield. Rookie safety Mistral Raymond also likely will be active for the first time in his young career.
Against Aaron Rodgers and the wide-open Packers, who like to flood the secondary with receiving options, those young defensive backs will be challenged in a way they haven’t been all season.
“They do a lot of four- and five-wideout sets; more so than most teams that you play,” Frazier said. “You would like to have all hands on deck, but the guys that are going to play are going to be ready to go and we are going to need them to step up and play big for us.”
Joe Berger likely will get the start for Sullivan at center, snapping the ball to rookie quarterback Christian Ponder, who will be making the first start of his career. Receiver Percy Harvin (ribs), right tackle Phil Loadholt (knee), special teamer Kenny Onatolu (hamstring), linebacker E.J. Henderson (left knee) and left guard Steve Hutchinson (knee) are all listed as probable.
Henderson has been bothered for most of the season by his knee injury, which has led to a reduced role in the team’s nickel defense. His brother Erin has filled in for him in passing situations to take some of the load off, and that likely will continue this week.
“He doesn’t quite have that explosion back that you need for some of the things you have to do in coverage,” Frazier said. “It’s something we have to look at. He is working towards getting that back and hopefully it will continue to come. He has made some progress, but is still not where he would want to be.”
(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)