Rookie Jamarca Sanford and Tyrell Johnson will split reps at strong safety on Sunday in the Vikings' divisional playoff game against Dallas. The two shared reps in the Vikings' regular-season finale against the New York Giants two weeks ago.
Sanford, a seventh-round pick, came in during the third series and the two ended up getting about the same number of snaps. "It's real big, it's a blessing," Sanford said when asked about this opportunity. "For them to believe in me and put me in in a game like this, it's really big."
Sanford has played a key role on special teams this season for the Vikings and will continue to play on those units on Sunday. Sanford was third on the Vikings with 19 tackles on special teams. He had four tackles against the Giants on defense. Johnson had three in that game.
Johnson, a second-round pick in 2008, started the first 12 games of the season but missed the Dec. 13 victory over Cincinnati because of a concussion. Sanford played that entire game and was impressive. Johnson was back as the starter the following week at Carolina but his issues with taking poor angles and missing tackles caused the coaching staff to give Sanford a shot.
As far as the Vikings injury report, defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy (thumb) and fullback Naufahu Tahi (back) are listed as questionable. Left guard Steve Hutchinson (shoulder), punter Chris Kluwe (back), tight end Visanthe Shiancoe (quadriceps), nose tackle Pat Williams (elbow) and cornerback Antoine Winfield (foot) are probable.
It has been confirmed that Kennedy broke his left thumb in the Vikings' second-to-last regular-season game against the Bears but said he will be good to go on Sunday. Tahi also said he will be ready after missing practice on Sunday.
We'll have more on Winfield later this afternoon. He said he will be playing both inside in the nickel and the left corner at times on Sunday. Coach Brad Childress spelled out that plan earlier this week. Winfield played about 20 snaps inside in the regular-season finale so he could get rest his injured right foot.
The only player on the Cowboys injury report whose status has been in question was running back Marion Barber (knee) but he was able to participate in all of practice today and is listed as probable. Also probable are tackle Marc Colombo (ankle); safety Gerald Sensabaugh (thumb); linebacker DeMarcus Ware (wrist, back); and safety Patrick Watkins (knee).
Finally, the mood in the locker room seemed pretty light this week. I thought it might be more tense or tight but it wasn't and that's probably a good thing. Owner Zygi Wilf even came downstairs to get a plate of food that is put out for the players each Friday. Wilf seemed to be in good spirits.