EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — League-leading receiver Percy Harvin is doubtful for the Minnesota Vikings’ home game Sunday against the Detroit Lions after missing the past week of practice with a badly sprained ankle.
Harvin — who has an NFL-best 62 catches and a 35.9-yard average on kickoff returns — sprained his ankle in three places during last week’s loss at Seattle.
Harvin had been on crutches earlier this week and said playing Sunday would be a “long shot,” but both the receiver and coach Leslie Frazier were holding out hope he would improve enough to practice Friday and play Sunday. On Friday, Frazier said Harvin is doubtful. Harvin will continue to get treatment on the, and the decision could come down to a pregame workout on Sunday, but Frazier didn’t sound overly optimistic.
“He’d have to make quite a bit of recovery tomorrow for us to say, ‘We’ll wait until Sunday to see what you can do,’ ” Frazier said. “But it’s possible. We’ve seen it happen before. So, we’ll continue to treat him and see how he feels tomorrow.”
Running back Adrian Peterson, who leads the league with 957 rushing yards, returned to practice Friday after missing practice Thursday with a stomach virus. Starting defensive tackle Letroy Guion also was back Friday after missing the previous two practices with turf toe. Frazier said Guion is doubtful but is hoping to be ready for Sunday. Fred Evans would start if Guion isn’t able to play.
Peterson said he’s fine and ready to play Sunday.
“I’m feeling a whole lot better,” Peterson said. “Had a little stomach bug, was feeling a little weak yesterday, but I woke up feeling a whole lot better.”
Sitting out Sunday’s game would give Harvin more time to rest the ankle with the Vikings’ bye the following week. But Frazier said Thursday that resting Harvin with the bye up next wouldn’t be a consideration and that Harvin would play Sunday if he were ready.
“Well, if he can go, we’ll play him and rest him after the game,” Frazier said.
Harvin, who was limping badly as he walked through the locker room Thursday, leads the team with 677 yards receiving and has five total touchdowns. His absence Sunday would be a damaging blow for Minnesota (5-4), which has its last two games and three of its past four.
Sunday begins a stretch of four consecutive games within the NFC North, a span that could determine the surprising Vikings’ fate in one of the toughest divisions in the NFL.
Even with the play-making Harvin, Minnesota’s passing offense has been faltering, totaling less than 100 net passing yards in two of the past three games. This week’s opponents, the 4-4 Lions, have been stingy against the pass, ranking eighth in the NFL and giving up just 214.3 yards per game. Earlier this season in a 20-13 win at Detroit, the Vikings passed for only 100 net yards.
Tight end Kyle Rudolph, second on the team with just 27 catches, has two receptions in the past three games. Receiver Jerome Simpson, expected to be a big contributor when he signed a one-year contract in the offseason, has eight catches for 109 yards and has been limited by a back issue that causes numbness and weakness in his leg.
Tight end John Carlson, who signed a five-year, $25 million contract in the offseason, is expected to return after missing the past two games because of a concussion, but he’s also been a disappointment with just three catches for eight yards. Carlson practiced all week for the first time since suffering the concussion in Week 7 while playing special teams.
Rookie fourth-round draft pick Jarius Wright, who has been on the active roster all year but hasn’t been activated for a game, could be considered to help fill Harvin’s role. Harvin and Wright are similar in stature, and Wright’s quickness and agility drew comparisons to Harvin following the draft.
Frazier said Wright will be active for the first time this season. Wright admitted some frustration about the long wait and the inevitable doubt that can creep in as the sitting continues.
“In the back of your head, you can’t help but wonder (when you’ll be active),” Wright said. “But at the same time, you know, I had full faith in my coaches and full faith in this program that they would get me up. I never doubted them once. But in the back of your head, you do begin to wonder.”