Vikings safety Harrison Smith has cleared the concussion protocol and is expected to play against the Saints on Sunday, head coach Kevin O'Connell said.
Smith, the 33-year-old former All-Pro selection, was held out of Sunday's win against the Lions due to the concussion suffered in the fourth quarter of the Sept. 19 loss in Philadelphia. He's expected to return Sunday at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, where the Vikings will play the team's first international game since 2017.
"We'll kind of limit his contact early on in the week," O'Connell said Monday, "but the expectation is Harry will be able to go in London."
Running back Dalvin Cook will be monitored throughout the week after dislocating his left shoulder in the third quarter. He was held out of the fourth quarter against the Lions and has previously dealt with shoulder injuries during the 2019 and 2021 seasons.
O'Connell said Cook's injury is a subluxation, "which I do think kind of means in-and-out type thing. Not something that is new to him. Having not been around him previous years, I know he's dealt with that at times, but I think it's something he's prepared to try to play with while also knowing we're going to do what's best for him to make sure we can have him as much as possible."
O'Connell added he's hopeful rookie cornerback Andrew Booth Jr., a second-round pick, returns to practice this week. Booth has missed the past two weeks since suffering a quad injury on Sept. 11 against the Packers.
'The player that I want to be'
Left tackle Christian Darrisaw has carried a strong training camp into the regular season. Through three games he's allowed the fewest quarterback pressures (five) among Vikings offensive linemen, according to Pro Football Focus. Darrisaw said pass protection has been his most improved area, and he didn't allow a single hurry to Lions' No. 2 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson.
"I feel like I've been playing pretty well," Darrisaw said, "especially like from last season coming into this season, I feel like there's been like way much more improvement in my game — and still room for improvement. I definitely feel like I took that step to become the player that I want to be and I'm getting there day by day."
Upon further review, receiver Justin Jefferson had at least two Lions defenders near him more often than not while he was held to a career-low 14 receiving yards on three catches, according to O'Connell, who said coaches "will continue to evaluate" how defenses guard him and adjust.
"I think he had eight or nine total snaps in the game where he didn't have like some variation of a double," O'Connell said. "Not all doubles are the same. I thought they tried to be very physical with him at the line of scrimmage almost to a point where a couple a times they were flagged for throwing him on the ground and things like that."
The Vikings defense allowed 139 rushing yards — at 4 yards per carry — to the Lions, but in a key stretch in the fourth quarter they had four straight run stops in which Lions running back Jamaal Williams had four carries that combined for a loss of 4 yards.
"I wouldn't say we found anything, I think we just had to dig deeper," defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard said. "We had to just start bowing up more. When games get like that, some teams tend to back off. Some bow up and I think that's what we did."