For the first time since late November, outside linebacker Anthony Barr, safety Harrison Smith and nose tackle Linval Joseph were on the practice field together Wednesday. And coach Mike Zimmer suggested again that the banged-up trio could be healthy enough to return to the lineup Sunday.
After missing the past two games because of a groin injury, Barr said Wednesday that “this is the best I’ve felt in a while.” He said his recent inactivity has been frustrating.
“You’ve just got to be patient,” Barr said. “Obviously you want to be out there, but sometimes situations are such that you can’t. So you’ve just got to try to get healthy as fast as possible.”
Barr was listed as limited on the injury report, but he didn’t appear to be slowed during a positional drill in which the linebackers chase a would-be pass-catcher into the flat.
Meanwhile, across the field inside the indoor practice facility, Joseph and Smith ran through drills with their respective position groups.
Joseph, who has missed three straight games because of a toe injury, practiced last Thursday and Friday but did not play in the 38-17 win over the Chicago Bears. Smith, who has missed three out of the past four games, practiced last Wednesday and Thursday before sitting out Friday when his injured knee and hamstring did not feel right.
Both players were officially limited during Wednesday’s practice.
Zimmer continued to be optimistic about their chances of suiting up Sunday night when the Vikings host the New York Giants at TCF Bank Stadium.
“I think they’ll play,” Zimmer said before backtracking slightly. “But I have no idea.”
Also sidelined …
Defensive end Everson Griffen, who was restricted to a part-time pass-rushing role against the Bears because of a shoulder injury, also participated Wednesday on a limited basis.
Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (noninjury designation) was also limited.
Running back Adrian Peterson did not practice after suffering a minor ankle injury against the Bears. But he said he is confident he will play against the Giants.
Tight end Rhett Ellison (ankle) and cornerback Josh Robinson (concussion) also sat out the afternoon session.
There is a decent chance, though, that Vikings won’t need those guys Sunday.
If the Seattle Seahawks win or the Atlanta Falcons lose, the Vikings will clinch a playoff spot.
And if the Green Bay Packers lose to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday afternoon, the game against the Giants will have no bearing on the race for first place in the NFC North. As long as the Vikings are within one game of the Packers heading into Week 17, that game at Lambeau Field will be a winner-take-all showdown.
If the teams finish with the same record, the Vikings would have the tiebreaker (division record).
Zimmer acknowledged that he has thought about whether he will treat the game against the Giants any differently if it won’t impact playoff seeding.
“I’m too much of a competitor in each game that I [would] want to fight. But I do want to be smart and that would be more so with the guys that are hurt,” Zimmer said. “Our mind-set is to go win both of these two games, play our guys. … If we happen to get in the playoffs, I think it’s important that we continue to push to get to where we want to get to.”
Barr, DiCaprio, etc.
Peterson was the only member of the Vikings to be selected to this year’s Pro Bowl. That did not sit well with defensive end Brian Robison, who, by the way, has never received an invite in his nine NFL seasons.
“You know, man, I’m over the Pro Bowl,” Robison said. “The Pro Bowl is a popularity contest. It’s just one of those things where you see some guys that make it and they absolutely deserve it, and you see some guys who don’t make it and you wonder how the heck they didn’t make it. It is what it is.”
Barr, meanwhile, opted to make light of not getting voted into the Pro Bowl.
“I’m not going to cry over it,” Barr said. “I can relate to my favorite actor, though, [Leonardo] DiCaprio. We’re in the same boat now, so I don’t feel too bad.”
DiCaprio has never won an Academy Award despite five nominations.