Vikings put Smith on IR with possible return

The Minnesota Vikings have allowed the ball to be passed against
them this season at an alarming rate.

This week they had to give up their best defensive back. Talk
about a combustible combination.

The Vikings placed safety Harrison Smith on injured reserve with
designation to return on Friday, and the best-case scenario for him
is a return for the final three games when he’s eligible to rejoin
the active roster. In six weeks when he will be allowed to resume
practicing with the team, coach Leslie Frazier said, the Vikings
will re-evaluate the turf toe injury on his left foot and determine
whether he’s healing fast enough to do that or recommend surgery
that requires four to six months of rehabilitation.

”I was upset about that. I love playing with him,” cornerback
Chris Cook said. ”He’s the best safety I’ve ever played with, and
I’m definitely going to miss him out there.”

Cook’s career began in 2010, so his sample size is limited. But
losing Smith, a first-round draft pick in 2012 who instantly became
one of the biggest-impact players on the team, is another
can’t-make-this-up blow to a reeling secondary. Andrew Sendejo will
replace him in the starting lineup.

The Vikings have given up the fourth-most average yards passing
per game in the league this year with 308, putting them on pace to
break the franchise record of 4,225 yards surrendered in 2007. With
13 touchdowns given up in five games, they’re last in the NFL with
that rate and also on pace to set the franchise mark for futility
with 41 scores thrown against them this season.

”No matter what the rankings, no matter how many plays, you
still have to have confidence at corner,” cornerback Xavier Rhodes
said. ”To be a great secondary, to be a great corner, you’ve still
got to have confidence and hope. So that’s what we’re doing.”

Over the last 15 seasons, the Vikings have finished in the
bottom quarter of the league in passing nine times in yards allowed
and four times in touchdowns allowed for average rankings of 25th
and 19th in those categories in that span.

Smith has two interceptions, the only ones this year by a
Vikings defensive back. Cornerback Jacob Lacey was signed to fill
his roster spot.

Though the Vikings must play on the road Monday they’re at least
facing a struggling quarterback in Eli Manning, whose 15
interceptions lead the league.

”It’s very exciting. Hopefully he’ll come in and throw us a
few,” said Cook, who has yet to record an interception in 26 NFL
games.

This defense, though, has more problems than lax coverage or a
lack of interceptions. Stopping the run used to be its calling
card, and that’s not happening anymore. Last week’s 35-10 loss to
Carolina was evidence.

”They could do whatever they wanted, and when you don’t get
your footing in one facet of the game, it’s hard to stop either,”
linebacker Chad Greenway said.

NOTES: RB Adrian Peterson was held out of practice Thursday to
rest a tight hamstring, and the Vikings did the same for LT Matt
Kalil due to tightness in his back. Frazier said neither injury is
a concern. … LB Desmond Bishop will have reconstructive right
knee surgery done Tuesday by Alabama-based specialist Dr. James
Andrews. He was hurt Sunday when a Carolina player rolled into his
leg after missing a cut block attempt on DE Jared Allen. Bishop
missed last season with Green Bay because of a torn right
hamstring, an injury he said was worse than this. ”I’ve been here
before. I know what it takes to come back, physically, mentally,
psychologically. I’m prepared,” said Bishop, who signed a one-year
contract with Minnesota and will turn 30 before next season. …
The Vikings won’t decide until Monday whether Blair Walsh (right
hamstring) will take kickoff duties back from punter Jeff Locke,
who filled in last week. Locke sent two kickoffs to the end zone,
one for a touchback, and also averaged 49.8 yards on four punts.
”The best game he’s had as a pro,” special teams coordinator Mike
Priefer said.

AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org

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