The Vikings are down four defensive backs, leaving them with only four healthy safeties on their 75-man roster heading into Thursday night's preseason finale at Houston.
Safeties Andrew Sendejo (ankle) and Mistral Raymond (back), and cornerbacks Marcus Sherels (ankle) and Josh Robinson (concussion) won't play because of injuries. That leaves starting free safety Harrison Smith having to suit up for the game just in case more bodies tumble.
"There are a couple of guys we really don't want to play unless there's an emergency," coach Leslie Frazier said. "They'll be available, but we're hoping they won't have to play."
Safety Robert Blanton, a fifth-round draft pick who has been slowed by a hamstring injury during camp, will start in his first NFL live action. The Vikings hope he can play the entire game so they can evaluate him and keep Smith out of harm's way.
The Vikings also hope Eric Frampton can handle most if not all of the snaps at the other safety spot. He injured a groin in last Friday against the Chargers but returned to practice on Tuesday.
Jamarca Sanford, who appears to be losing his competition with Raymond for the starting strong safety job, might play. Frazier said most of his starters won't play, but added that there could be "a couple exceptions."
Fusco will start
It wasn't exactly a ringing endorsement, but Frazier finally recognized second-year pro Brandon Fusco as his starting right guard.
"As we speak, he's going to end up being our opening-day starter," Frazier said. "There's nothing that anyone else has done that could unseat him. ... Brandon, as we speak, is the guy."
Geoff Schwartz, who had surgery to repair a sports hernia, returned to practice this week, but is weeks away from being able to push Fusco.
A kick out of Kluwe
Frazier was asked about the life and tweets of outspoken punter, Chris Kluwe, who might lead the league in colorful Twitter rants.
"He definitely has his opinions about things, and he tends to share those," Frazier said. "We've had some discussions, and for the most part he's adhered to some of the things we've talked about. ... But I don't want to speak too soon.
"I don't know what the next hot topic will be in our country that has to be spoken about. ... But he does a good job at his job, and that's important."
Six receivers likely
Frazier said the plan right now is to keep six receivers, including Jerome Simpson, who will begin the season by serving a three-game suspension. Percy Harvin is the other lock to make the team. Beyond that is anyone's guess because even the Vikings are uncertain what to do at this point.
Frazier said Stephen Burton, Jarius Wright, Devin Aromashodu and Emmanuel Arceneaux will handle the bulk of Thursday's snaps. Michael Jenkins would be limited, if he plays at all, Frazier said.
Frazier said Simpson won't have to leave Winter Park during his three-game suspension at the start of the season. According to Frazier, Simpson can't practice or work out with teammates, but he can sit in on meetings and work out individually with strength coach Tom Kanavy.
• Frazier said Joe Webb will start at quarterback and play at least the first quarter on Thursday. Sage Rosenfels will complete the first half and McLeod Bethel-Thompson will play the entire second half.
• With Sherels and Robinson out, rookie Jarius Wright will be the first punt returner used Thursday. Cornerback Reggie Jones also will return punts.
• Frazier said running back Adrian Peterson and his reconstructed left knee felt fine Tuesday, a day after they were cleared to take limited contact in practice.
• Fullback Ryan D'Imperio (shoulder) returned to practice on Tuesday.