The Vikings' injured defensive corps didn't make much progress this week with two of their three top players ruled out and the other questionable for Sunday's game against Chicago.
Nose tackle Linval Joseph (foot) was listed as questionable but could play for the first time in three weeks, while linebacker Anthony Barr (groin/hand) and safety Harrison Smith (knee/hamstring) won't play for a second consecutive week.
Joseph, who hasn't played since Week 12 at Atlanta, practiced for a second consecutive day, and defensive end Everson Griffen (shoulder) returned but was limited and is also questionable.
Defensive end Scott Crichton (concussion) sat out for a third day in a row and won't play Sunday. Wide receiver Charles Johnson (ankle) also was ruled out.
Safeties Andrew Sendejo (knee) and Robert Blanton (knee), and linebacker Brandon Watts were all listed probable for Sunday. Sendejo has missed the past two games.
The overload of injuries had the Vikings' schemes changing. "We come up with game plans and then we throw out things that some guys can't do or try to change it up a little bit," coach Mike Zimmer said, "but nothing much."
A unopened Hot Wheels with a note attached to it sat on the top shelf of cornerback Xavier Rhodes' locker earlier this week at Winter Park.
"#29 Player of the Game," the note read.
Giving these sturdy and long-lasting toy cars is the way defensive backs coach Jerry Gray rewards his players for a standout performance.
Rhodes earned his Hot Wheels for helping shut down Atlanta's standout receiver Julio Jones in the Vikings' 20-10 victory on Nov. 29.
"It's the message behind the Hot Wheel. When you were a little kid, you always wanted a Hot Wheel," Rhodes said. "It's like you getting the game ball, something special, something meaningful. It's like the Hot Wheel was [when we were] growing up."
Rookie safety Anthony Harris has yet to find a Hot Wheels in his locker, but after his successful pro debut last week at Arizona, he could be in contention for one soon. With Smith out this weekend, Harris might get a lot of snaps for a second week in a row.
"[Gray] gives out the Hot Wheels like a symbolic thing of somebody who's been old-fashioned, tough, who can handle the beating," Harris said. "It's a hard reminder of something that's old but something that's cherishable 'cause it's so durable."
Down and up
A little more than a week after being waived by the Vikings, defensive end Justin Trattou will likely be on the field at TCF Bank Stadium. Trattou practiced all week with the idea he would fill in for Crichton.
"I assume I'll be playing. I practiced all week, so I'm ready to go," Trattou said Friday.
Trattou was waived last Tuesday before the Vikings traveled to Arizona. The move cleared space to sign two safeties after all four safeties on the 53-man roster were injured. Trattou was re-signed by the Vikings six days later.
He hasn't played since suffering a foot injury in the first quarter against San Diego in Week 3 and had 13 tackles over the first three games.
"I was gone for like two days [after being waived]. My biggest thing is it will be my first game back since I've been injured," Trattou said. "I was rolling before I was injured, so I'm going to pick up where I left off."
Sunday's forecast is 39 degrees, mostly cloudy with some sun at TCF Bank Stadium.
Zimmer would have preferred weather more similar to Friday's 20-degree high with wind gusts up to 25 mph, bringing the windchill temperature to 4 degrees in the middle of the day.
The Vikings practiced inside Friday but had all the outside doors open to create a cold environment.
"It's not supposed to be that cold on Sunday. I kind of like it when it's snowy and nasty," Zimmer said. "Next few weeks it'll be a little chilly, but I kind of like that."