By Joseph Gunther
Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith is considered one of the game’s best at his position. Everyone, the players and coaches, expects to see them both on the field Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome. The Vikings listed both players as questionable, but it likely only means that they won’t play if a setback or something happens.
He and starting defensive end Everson Griffen missed Tuesday and Wednesday’s practices, but returned as limited participants Friday. Smith has a knee ailment that occurred in Sunday’s game and Griffen has been dealing with hip and shoulder issues for several weeks. Smith has played all 10 games this season and Griffen has missed only Week 6 due to an illness.
“At this point in the year, everybody’s banged up, so I’m just trying to get ready for Sunday,” Smith said before Wednesday’s practice. “You never want to get banged up. Sometimes you don’t know what you’re feeling because you’ve got a lot of adrenaline going.
“It’s always good if you can keep playing. I’m trying to get better this week. It always hurts worse on Monday even when you’re not injured. Winning always helps. We’ve got to get back to that this week.”
Smith was injured during the first quarter of the Vikings loss to the Green Bay Packers when teammate Terence Newman rolled up his knee while chasing running back Eddie Lacy. Smith limped to the sideline, but was back on the field in the second quarter. Smith finished the game with four tackles, at least half of those came after the injury.
“Stuff happens,” Smith said before Wednesday’s practice. “It’s part of the game.”
The player most likely to miss the game because of injury is Trae Waynes. The rookie cornerback was added to the injury report Thursday as a limited participant and then did not participate Friday due to an ankle injury. The first round draft pick has progressed as a cornerback throughout the season, but has mainly contributed on special teams.
Head coach Mike Zimmer was to say that he would never rule anyone out for the game when asked about Griffen, Smith, and Waynes. However, with the downgrade in participation from Wayne from day to day, it is more likely that he will not play than he will.
The Falcons list six players on their injury report with injuries. They list kicker Matt Bryant (right quad), running back Devonta Freeman (concussion) and wide receiver Leonard Hankers (hamstring) as out and cornerback Robert Alford (groin), guard Andy Levitre (knee) and safety Robenson Therezie (hamstring) as probable for Sunday’s game. Kicker Shayne Graham was also listed on the report as a non-participant Friday, but it was not injury related. He was signed Thursday as Bryant was downgraded from a limited participant to non-participant in practice.
Probable (75 percent chance player will play):
Anthony Barr, linebacker (hand)
Robert Blanton, safety (ankle)
Teddy Bridgewater, quarterback (left shoulder)
Sharrif Floyd, defensive tackle (ankle)
Matt Kalil, offensive tackle (toe)
Eric Kendricks, linebacker (ribs)
Questionable (50 percent):
Everson Griffen, defensive end (hip/shoulder)
Harrison Smith, safety (knee)
Trae Waynes, cornerback (ankle)
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.