The Vikings on Saturday trimmed their roster from 75 players to 53, and while there were no major surprises, the release of veteran safety Chris Crocker was a little curious.
The Vikings signed Crocker, who played for head coach Mike Zimmer in Atlanta in 2007 and Cincinnati from 2008 to 2013, to a one-year minimum-salary deal after injuries sidelined a trio of safeties early in training camp. It did not take long for Crocker to find himself running with the first-team defense, and he made a pair of starts during the preseason.
Crocker appeared to battling Robert Blanton and Kurt Coleman for a chance to start alongside fellow safety Harrison Smith. But on Saturday, the Vikings released both Crocker and Coleman.
Also cut were defensive tackles Fred Evans, Chase Baker and Isame Faciane; tight ends Chase Ford and Allen Reisner; running backs Joe Banyard and Dominique Williams; wide receivers Kain Colter and Donte Foster; offensive linemen Mike Remmers, Jeff Baca and Zach Kerin; defensive end Justin Trattou; linebackers Mike Zimmer and Justin Jackson; and cornerbacks Julian Posey and Kendall James.
Quarterback Christian Ponder was among the players who did make the team.
The Vikings now have four safeties on their roster — Smith, Blanton, Andrew Sendejo and rookie Antone Exum — and Blanton seems to be the most likely candidate to start at the other safety spot.
A return for Crocker shouldn’t be ruled out, though. Any veteran added to the roster after Week 1 will not have a guaranteed salary. And if the Vikings deal with more injuries or inconsistent play at the position, the 34-year-old could be a cost-efficient alternative.
The Vikings placed safety Jamarca Sanford on injured reserve. Sanford, a starter for the Vikings in 2012 and 2013, injured his quadriceps during their Aug. 23 preseason win over the Kansas City Chiefs and could not play Thursday night against the Tennessee Titans.
Sanford also missed most of the spring workouts because of a different injury.
The injuries — which denied him an opportunity to impress Zimmer, a new head coach — along with his $2.5 million salary-cap figure put Sanford’s roster spot in jeopardy heading into cutdown day.
Offensive tackle Antonio Richardson, a rookie free agent, was also placed on injured reserve. Knee injuries ailed him in college and were a factor in him going undrafted this May.
Wide receivers Adam Thielen and Rodney Smith, who were competing for the right to be reserves, both made the team. It helped that veteran Jerome Simpson will not count against the 53-man roster while serving his three-game suspension.
Thielen caught eight passes for 99 yards and a touchdown in the preseason. Smith had six catches for 77 yards, including the game-winning touchdown in the team’s second preseason game.
Plenty of linebackers
Young linebackers Audie Cole, Brandon Watts, Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti were all competing with special teams ace Larry Dean for roster spots behind starters Chad Greenway, Anthony Barr and Jasper Brinkley. It turns out they all made the team.
The Vikings are keeping eight linebackers on the roster, though that could be the first position group they look to trim if they claim a player or players at another position off waivers.
James, a 2014 sixth-round pick, was the only member of the team’s 10-man draft class to not make the 53-man roster, though the cornerback out of Maine is a practice squad candidate.
Teams can start signing players to the practice squad once they clear waivers on Sunday.