Adrian Peterson was back at practice Thursday. Christian Ponder was not. Where that leaves the Vikings offense heading into Sunday's game in Detroit is anybody's guess.
Both players could be ready for action. Equally possible: Neither Peterson nor Ponder plays against the Lions.
In that regard, Friday's practice will now be a major measuring stick for coach Leslie Frazier as he weighs his options with both players.
Peterson has been out because of a high ankle sprain since the first quarter of the Vikings' Week 11 loss to the Raiders. Thursday marked his first practice since suffering the injury. And Frazier sensed the star running back feeling more comfortable with his cutting.
"He's headed in the right direction," Frazier said. "Far more improved than he was a week ago. So we're encouraged by his work. ... He had trouble before planting and cutting. He was much better doing that today. That was one of our concerns. Because we all know, he's one of those guys who runs hard, and he'll stop on a dime and cut in any direction. He was able to do that today without pain. So that was encouraging."
Ponder, meanwhile, still is limping around after suffering a hip pointer Sunday against Denver. He missed his second consecutive practice Thursday. In his place, Joe Webb has taken all the snaps with the first-team offense this week, in line to start in Detroit if necessary.
Frazier must wait to see if Ponder can practice at least a little Friday.
"If he's not able to do anything [Friday], it'd be hard pressed for us to put him in the game," Frazier said. "We'd need to see him take some snaps and move around a little bit to make a decision about him playing."
Anthony Herrera has been selected as the Vikings' 2011 recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award, an honor voted on by teammates and given to a player who exemplifies commitment to sportsmanship and courage.
Herrera earned the award after battling back from offseason ACL and triceps surgery. Once an undrafted free agent and later a practice squad player, Herrera is now a reliable veteran starter on the Vikings' offensive line and an emotional leader in the huddle.
"I truly love this game," he said Thursday. "Everything about it. I love playing football. I love being with the guys. I just love it. I let my passion show. I let my edge come out on the field and hopefully everyone buys into it."
Boss steps in
Reports surfaced two weeks ago that defensive coordinator Fred Pagac had relinquished a significant portion of his play-calling duties in losses to Oakland and Atlanta, with Frazier having much more of a say. Pagac acknowledged that much Thursday but said Frazier backed off a bit with his input last weekend against Denver.
"That's his job as a head coach. He's the boss," Pagac said. "If he's going to make a call, he's going to make a call. If I was the boss and I wanted to make a call, I'd make a call all right. He's been helpful and he's doing everything he can to help us win."
As the Vikings enter the stretch run of a frustrating season, Pagac's job security is worth watching.
Receiver Percy Harvin was limited in practice Thursday after suffering a minor ligament tear in one of his fingers a day earlier. Harvin will have to tape the finger as protection but should be OK to play this weekend.
Defensive end Brian Robison, meanwhile, was back at practice, cleared after suffering a concussion in the second half last weekend.
Other limited participants Thursday were Steve Hutchinson (illness), Chad Greenway (elbow), Asher Allen (shoulder), Visanthe Shiancoe (hand) and Everson Griffen (quadriceps).