By Joseph Gunther
The Minnesota Vikings could get a boost with the return of safety Harrison Smith on Sunday when the team faces the Philadelphia Eagles at Mall of America Field.
The second-year veteran suffered a turf toe in Week 6 against the Carolina Panthers. There was speculation that he may need surgery, but he chose rest and rehabilitation. He is eligible to be taken off the injured reserve list this weekend.
”I’ve been kind of in a gray area for a while,” Smith said. “I’m excited to get back out on the field. It’s obviously going to take a long time for it to get back to where it was. But it’s structurally sound. I can move around and can do what I want to do, so it feels good.”
Smith’s return to lineup comes against league’s No. 1 rushing offense (158.5 yards per game), No. 3 total offense (409.3 yards per game) and tied for ninth best scoring offense (25.7 points per game). They also are one 400-yard game away becoming the fifth team in NFL history to so 11 times in one season.
“I think the coaches are going to do a good job of not just killing me and just throwing me out there and having me take all the reps,” Smith said. “Especially with (Philadelphia’s) type of offense.”
Aside from the numbers, the Eagles use the up-tempo, high-speed offense Chip Kelly made famous at the University of Oregon. The Eagles offense takes such little time between plays that it is hard for the defense to make substitutions.
“I’ve tried to work on my conditioning since I’ve been off, but there’s nothing quite like when the lights come on, especiallly with this offense,” Smith said. “They’re faster than most. Just see how it goes because you can’t simulate it.”
Andrew Sendejo and Jamarca Sanford are still expected to start, but Smith will still get on the field.
“Based on how Harrison does this week (in practice) we’ll make a determination on how much he plays,” Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier said.
Smith and the Vikings could have chosen to sit out the rest of the season to avoid further injury, but that was not an option for the starting safety.
“All the other stuff that comes with playing in the NFL is nice obviously, but getting to play on Sundays is what it’s all about,” Smith said. “So when you can’t do that, you feel kind of lost.”
Smith was one of the better players on the Vikings defense before his injury. He recorded 34 tackles, three passes defensed, two interceptions and a fumble recovery in five games.
Frazier expects running backs Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart (both listed as questionable) to practice Friday. He will determine their status for Sunday’s game after practice.
The Complete injury Report
The Vikings listed tight end John Carlson (concussion), guard Brandon Fusco (knee), Gerhart (hamstring), Peterson (groin/foot), cornerback Xavier Rhodes (ankle) and cornerback Josh Robinson (chest) as non-participants in Thursday’s practice.
The team listed linebacker Larry Dean (knee) as limited participants in Thursday’s practice.
Linebacker Chad Greenway (wrist) was listed as full participants in Thursday’s practice.
For more Vikings news and updates, visit Vikings Central.
Joseph Gunther is an avid fan of Minnesota sports, including football, hockey and baseball. He covered a wide variety of sports while attending Hastings College in Hastings, Neb. While at Hastings College, he was a part of the first collegiate media group to broadcast a national tournament via television, radio, internet and newspaper at the 2004 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. He grew up in the Twin Cities playing three years of varsity football in high school. Joseph is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.