Vikings free safety Harrison Smith has come a long way since he was spotted on crutches and wearing a protective boot to cover his sprained left ankle last Friday.
The crutches and boot were gone Wednesday. And while Smith was held out of practice, he was seen running without favoring the ankle while working out off to the side with injured linebacker Chad Greenway and head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman during the portion of practice that was open to the media.
“He did a lot [Wednesday],” coach Mike Zimmer said. “So I expect that he’s probably going to play [against the Detroit Lions on Sunday].”
That’s good news for a team that hasn’t had much of that in recent weeks. Smith is tied for the NFL lead in interceptions with three and leads the team in passes defensed (six). He also is second on the team in tackles with 41, eight fewer than rookie linebacker Anthony Barr.
“The thing I like the most about Harrison is he’s a good competitor — he’s got a lot of toughness in him, a lot of grit,” Zimmer said. “He’s a quiet leader kind of. He’s not really a big vocal kind of guy, but I think that’s part of him feeling out the new system and everything else. I assume that he’ll be more and more as we continue to go.”
If Smith couldn’t play, special teamer Andrew Sendejo would have had to step in. Sendejo, who started 10 games when Smith was injured last year, has played only two defensive snaps this season.
Be wary of run stats
Zimmer isn’t a big stats guy. So be careful when using them to make a point with him.
For example, Zimmer wasn’t buying in when running back Matt Asiata’s yards-per-carry average of 4.8 was used to suggest a satisfying rushing performance in Thursday’s 42-10 loss at Green Bay.
“We didn’t run the ball that effectively [in Weeks 2-3] and I wouldn’t say that we did the other night, regardless of what his yards per carry is,” Zimmer said. “I don’t want to get too rose-colored glasses because I’m still not happy about Thursday night.”
Still wary of Lions
Zimmer said the Vikings are preparing as if the Lions will play receiver Calvin Johnson and running back Reggie Bush, even though there are reports that Detroit coach Jim Caldwell plans to rest his top two offensive weapons because of ankle injuries. Neither player nor tight end Joseph Fauria (ankle) participated in Wednesday’s practice.
“Well, they still have some good weapons,” Zimmer said. “Golden Tate is still an excellent receiver, and [Matthew] Stafford is an excellent quarterback.
“They’re going to be different. I’d be joking if I said they’d be the exact same. We’re not good enough to take anybody lightly or worry about anything with who isn’t going to be there and who is going to be there.”
Greenway expected to practice soon
Zimmer said Greenway will try to practice this week after missing the past two games because of a broken hand and broken ribs.
“He’s running now and starting to be pain-free,” Zimmer said.
Greenway has said that he could play with the broken hand but that he needs the ribs to heal before he can be effective again.
Greenway and tight end Kyle Rudolph, who is still weeks from returning after having hernia surgery, didn’t practice Wednesday. Limited in practice were receiver Cordarrelle Patterson (hip) and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (elbow).
On the injury report with full practice participation were quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (ankle), running backs Asiata (groin) and Jerick McKinnon (ankle) and linebacker Michael Mauti (foot).
• Receiver Jarius Wright returned to practice after missing Tuesday’s practice for what he said was a “family issue.”
• Here is a statistic that rubs Zimmer the wrong way no matter how it is used. According to Pro Football Focus, the Packers’ Eddie Lacy had 50 yards after contact in Thursday’s debacle. That means Lacy also had 55 yards before contact. Either way, it’s a stat that irks Zimmer, who ranks run defense as his biggest disappointment defensively.