EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Kevin Williams is expected to return to a Minnesota Vikings’ defense that allowed the ninth-most rushing yards last week when Minnesota plays at Chicago on Sunday.
Williams, the Vikings’ longtime anchor at defensive tackle, missed last week’s game because of a bone bruise suffered in the third preseason game, but he’s listed as probable for Sunday against the Bears. Williams returned to practice this week. He missed Friday’s practice because of a personal matter, but Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier said he expects Williams to be ready for Sunday.
“We’ve seen enough,” Frazier said. “Everything based on what happened yesterday after practice, he was feeling good. So he should be good to go.”
Without Williams in the middle, the Vikings allowed 117 rushing yards to the Detroit Lions last week. Detroit, long known as a passing team, had success going through the middle of Minnesota’s defense. Reggie Bush gashed the Vikings for 90 rushing yards on 21 carries as well as four catches for 101 yards. Bush’s 77-yard touchdown on a screen pass up the middle gave Detroit a 10-point lead in the third quarter.
Only eight NFL teams allowed more rushing yards to an opponent than Minnesota in Week 1, a week in which only three players ran more than 100 yards individually.
“You want to be out there contributing, helping the team win,” Williams said. “For us to lose the way we did, letting Reggie run the ball effectively and then the screens, I just felt you always could help out and do your part.”
Williams missed his first game due to injury since 2005 and said he noticed Detroit trying to attack where he would normally be lined up.
“I mean, they tried to take advantage of us up the middle,” Williams said. “They just kept the ends wide and tried to weave through the middle. We’ve just got to stay sound. Every game we lost last season was because of fundamentals. And this was just another game, just like that, we wasn’t fundamentally sound. We weren’t in our gaps and they took advantage of it.”
In his 11th season with Minnesota, Williams’ familiarity in the defense allows him to work back in quickly without much practice time. Frazier said the team will monitor Williams during Sunday’s game, but he isn’t expected to be limited.
“We’ll have to monitor how he’s doing; in between series, just talk to him sometimes, see how he’s coming along just to make sure that he’s functioning properly,” Frazier said. “And we’ll be paying attention to him as well. But we’ll have to kind of play it by ear.”
Williams was replaced by rookie Sharrif Floyd playing in his first regular-season game, Fred Evans, Letroy Guion and Everson Griffen. Williams’ return allows the Vikings to go back to its preferred rotation along the defensive line. Guion and Evans often rotate alongside Williams and Floyd will get snaps working behind Williams. Griffen plays the middle at times on passing downs.
Minnesota missed Williams’ leadership and presence, as well.
“Kevin has been here forever,” defensive end Jared Allen said. “Not having him on the field is different. Just having him back, I’m familiar with where he’s going to be, especially if we’re rushing. I know where he’s going to be on certain blocks and I can play off that, and vice versa. We have that camaraderie. He’s that centerpiece that kind of makes us churn. He has seniority and it’s a respect thing.”
The Bears struggled to run the ball last week with Matt Forte and will likely look to get Forte back on track Sunday. Forte had 19 carries for 50 yards last week in a down rushing week across the league.
“I can’t measure it, Kevin being back,” Vikings defensive coordinator Alan Williams said. “We’re glad he’s there. I talked to him when we came back from Detroit and he said it was hard on him to be out of that ball game and I think as hard as it was on him it was harder for me not seeing him out there in the middle.”