THIEF RIVER FALLS, MINN. – Safety Harrison Smith, who led the Vikings with five interceptions in 2014, is on the mend after offseason surgery on his left hand.
Smith sported a bulky bandage wrapped around his left hand and a splint that kept the ring and pinkie fingers on the hand locked in place as he visited patients at Sanford Hospital, posed for pictures with teammates and signed autographs at an appearance during the team’s annual Arctic Blast fundraising event.
Smith, 26, said he had “minor” surgery on his hand, specifically those two fingers, after the season ended. He was injured during the second half of the season and played through it, and he said he expects to participate in the offseason program.
“Just a little fix-up from the season,” Smith said, adding that the cast will come off later this week.
Smith has been taking it easy since the end of the season. He was in Arizona for the Super Bowl pregame festivities but flew back to the Twin Cities the morning of the game. He will start training again soon in preparation for offseason workouts, which are a couple of months away.
“They tell us to relax and let our bodies and minds heal,” he said. “But it’s kind of hard to stay away from the gym, so I try to at least get on a bicycle or run or do something to stay in decent shape.”
While he didn’t get a Pro Bowl invitation to show for it, Smith emerged as one of the league’s best all-around safeties in 2014 under first-year Vikings coach Mike Zimmer. Smith finished third on the team with 92 tackles and was the only player in the league with at least five interceptions and three sacks.
The Vikings see him as a big part of their future, and they will get a chance to show it financially this offseason. Now that Smith has completed the first three seasons of his rookie contract, the 2012 first-round pick is eligible for an extension.
Smith said he hopes to remain in Minnesota for the long term, but he is leaving all that up to his agent, Brian Murphy.
“That’s all I’ve thought of doing,” Smith said. “I have no intentions of going anywhere else. I’ll just let [my agency] handle it. I’m just here to play football and we’ll see what happens.”
Linemen on the mend
Among the six active Vikings players who were appearing at Arctic Blast were starting offensive linemen Brandon Fusco and Phil Loadholt, who are both recovering from torn pectoral muscles.
Fusco had season-ending surgery in late September and is ahead of Loadholt, who was lost to a similar injury in November, in the rehab process. He says he has been lifting weights “for three, four weeks now.”
“I’m not setting records right now, but I’m getting up there progressively,” Fusco said.
The right guard said he is starting to feel like himself again and is optimistic about his chances of being ready for the start of organized team activities this spring.
Loadholt, meanwhile, has started lifting weights, too, and is working on building his strength back up. The right tackle hasn’t targeted a return date, but he hopes to participate in some fashion during spring workouts and said he will “definitely” be ready for the start of training camp.
“I’m right on pace with where the trainers want me to be at and I’m just trying to rehab that, get healthy and just get ready for the year,” he said.
Johnson looking ahead
Charles Johnson, signed from the Cleveland Browns practice squad in September, emerged as Teddy Bridgewater’s go-to receiver in the second half of the season. Johnson finished with 31 catches for 475 yards and two touchdowns in 2014.
“It was good to get an opportunity to showcase what I can do,” Johnson said. “But for me, personally, there is still a lot more work that I need to do.”
After getting some much-needed rest and relaxation — he said this is his first true downtime in three years — Johnson is excited to start training again so he can prove his strong finish wasn’t a fluke.
“I’m very confident in my ability,” he said. “I know what I can do. It’s just all about the opportunity. I think I showcased a little bit, but there’s still a lot more that I can show.”
Marciano to Lions
Joe Marciano, who served as Vikings special teams coordinator for the first four games of 2014 in place of the suspended Mike Priefer, will be named Lions special teams coordinator, Sports Illustrated reported.