By Joseph Gunther
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Harrison Smith was arguably the player on the Minnesota Vikings defense until a turf toe injury in Week 6 sidelined him for eight weeks.
The second-year safety had the Week 15 contest against the Philadelphia Eagles circled as his return date. He recorded eight tackles and made an impact for the Vikings defense.
“I thought Harrison’s presence made a big difference,” Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier said. “He’s such a common influence on our entire defense and our secondary in particular. Some of the things he does that doesn’t show up in the stat sheet – just his moving around, being in position and discouraging quarterbacks by just his movement some times where he’s bluffing like he might be coming on a blitz or showing where he might be in the box to discourage a run and all of a sudden he’s back in the half-field position. His presence helps us all, so it was great to have him back.”
Smith was expected to be eased back into game shape, but was thrown into the fire against a Eagles squad that likes to push the tempo and work quickly.
“A lot more than we anticipated,” Frazier said. “We’d ask him after each series – especially the type of offense they were running – how do you feel, what do you think and he wanted to go back out there and he did good. He did a great job.”
In six games this season, Smith has 42 tackles, three passes defensed, two interceptions and one fumble recovery.
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Chris Cook was a late addition to the injury report after suffering a bone bruise in his knee during Friday’s practice.
“He was just planting on a route and getting ready to drive on a route and felt his knee tweak and ended up going and getting an MRI and had a bone bruise and struggled to get through that,” Frazier said. “We worked him out before the ballgame, just struggled with the pain.”
Cook has missed at least six games in each of his first three seasons with the Vikings.
“There was no structural issues that I was told, more of dealing with the things you have to do as a defensive back – plant, turn without thinking,” Frazier said. “You can’t be worried about the pain. The fact that he was having trouble planting and driving, getting out of his back pedal, that’s a problem as a defensive back.”
Cook was replaced in the starting lineup by Shaun Prater. The Vikings claimed Prater following a Week 7 loss to the New York Giants. It was his first career start and recorded his first career interception.
“I don’t know about that for sure, but he played well,” Frazier said about Prater’s chances of retaining the starting job. “He did a good job. We’re going to sit back and evaluate his performance and see where Chris is physically as well. We think he’s going to be fine going forward, but we’ll get on the field and find out on Wednesday.”
Cook is in the final year of his rookie contract and it is growing more likely that the Vikings will not re-sign the former second round draft pick.
For more Vikings news and updates, visit Vikings Central.MORE NEWS: 12-Year-Old Hurt In St. Paul Shooting; Investigation Underway
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.