The Vikings practiced without four safeties, two linebackers and a nose tackle on Monday and it’ll be at least a few weeks until safety Antone Exum Jr. is back on the field.
Exum fractured a rib and injured the AC joint in one of his shoulders in Sunday’s 38-7 loss to Seattle, according to a team source. The injury occurred on a first-quarter collision with one of the Seahawks tight ends, but he remained in the game and played all but one of the 67 defensive snaps.
The second-year safety, making just his second career start, had five tackles and forced and recovered a fumble on Seattle’s opening drive. Exum started the past two games filling in for injured starting safeties Harrison Smith (knee/hamstring) and Andrew Sendejo (knee).
Smith and Sendejo missed practice Monday along with backup safety Robert Blanton, also nursing a knee injury. Starting linebacker Anthony Barr (groin/hand), linebacker Brandon Watts (ribs) and starting nose tackle Linval Joseph (foot) also didn’t practice. Defensive end Scott Crichton was limited because of an ankle injury.
Exum is expected to return this season, but coach Mike Zimmer said he didn’t know anything about the injury.
“I’ve been in the film room, so I don’t know,” Zimmer said. “This is the NFL and guys get banged up all the time. We’re not the only team that has guys hurt, so line up and go play.”
Seattle linebacker Bruce Irvin told NFL.com that Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater “was so scared” on Sunday. The Seahawks sacked Bridgewater four times and had seven quarterback hits.
“Teddy Bridgewater is a really good quarterback, and he’s going to do some big things in this league,” Irvin said. “But we had him [rattled].”
The Seahawks defense got to Bridgewater early when Frank Clark sacked the Vikings quarterback on third-and-3 during their opening drive. Irvin’s sack late in the third quarter caused Bridgewater to fumble, but the Vikings recovered.
Protection issues continue to plague the Vikings’ offensive front. The group is allowing an average of almost three sacks a game, and Bridgewater has been sacked 34 times, tied for fourth-most in the NFL.
“As an offensive line, we’re going to take it personally this week,” Vikings left guard Brandon Fusco said Monday morning at Winter Park. “We could do a better job. Protection should be a lot better to make Teddy more comfortable in the pocket.”
Grueling three days
The short week will mean long days at Winter Park for the Vikings coaching staff and players. Zimmer said he stayed at Winter Park all night, slept a little, then was back at it by 4:30 a.m.
Tight end Kyle Rudolph said he arrived Monday morning for a workout and likely would be at the practice facility until 7:30 p.m.
The Vikings’ usual weekly six-day schedule will be crammed into three days to get ready for Thursday’s game at Arizona.
“You always feel like you’re playing catch-up on these Thursday schedules from a mental standpoint,” Rudolph said. “Obviously physically, you’ve got to recover and be ready to go four days later, but I think it’s more mentally stressful than it is physically.”
He’s right, but …
Adrian Peterson said the Vikings were outcoached and thought he should have carried the ball more after running the ball only eight times Sunday.
On Monday, Zimmer said Peterson “probably” should have gotten the ball more; as for Peterson’s statement, Zimmer said, “I don’t really worry about other people’s opinions.”
Veteran defensive back Terence Newman briefly filled in at safety Sunday and is willing to play there more often, if necessary.
“If they need me at safety, I’ll play safety. I have no problem with that,” Newman said. “I know the defense. I know most of the safety position. Wherever they need me, I’m willing to play.”
Zimmer said that Newman’s shift to safety was just situational and “he won’t need to” play the position moving forward.