EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Minnesota Vikings have largely avoided the catastrophic injury situations some teams are dealing with around the NFL, and they might have lucked out Thursday as well.
Linebacker Erin Henderson, making the move to middle linebacker from the weakside, had his heel stepped on during a play and had to leave practice. Athletic trainers helped Henderson, who was visibly frustrated after the play, retape his ankle. But coach Leslie Frazier said Henderson should be “fine.”
“Just to go in and let them take a look at his heel,” Frazier said. “Got stepped on, but he should be fine tomorrow.”
Left guard Charlie Johnson didn’t practice Thursday and Frazier said he would be out Friday as well as he deals with a family matter. Frazier said he expects Johnson back for Sunday’s preseason game at San Francisco though.
Receiver Jarius Wright is still working his way back from a concussion and Frazier said he still has one level of testing protocol to pass before being cleared for full activity. Wright’s been working a bit on the side all week as he tries to return.
Wright won’t play in Sunday’s preseason game, but Frazier said there are no concerns about Wright’s availability down the line.
“I think if we wanted him to do some things, I think he could do it,” Frazier said. “I don’t know if we’re going to play him in this ballgame just from a precautionary standpoint. But he’ll be ready to go when we need him. I think we’ll be alright this weekend without him.”
Fullback Jerome Felton (appendectomy) and offensive lineman Tyler Holmes (ankle) didn’t practice Thursday.
Henderson, who’s taken nearly every first-team repetition in practice since he moved to middle linebacker, was replaced in practice by Audie Cole.
“I think he has really improved,” Frazier said of Cole, who is in his second-year. “Having an offseason with us, a full offseason as a veteran, has helped him. We have a lot more confidence in him today, as a middle linebacker then we did about a year ago this time as a rookie. He’s beginning to show some leadership ability, which you need at the middle linebacker position. So, I think he’s going to be a capable guy if something were to happen to Erin that we could count on. He’s done some good things.”
A little more heat: After going through training camp down in Mankato, Minn., with unseasonably cool weather, the Vikings have had to practice through a bit more heat in the return to the team’s facilities at Winter Park.
Frazier lamented, at times, the cool weather down in Mankato and the affect it might have on conditioning. Temperatures have risen the past two days at Winter Park for practice and Minnesota has followed with longer practices.
“The guys know (the heat is) something we were hoping for and I’m glad it’s here,” Frazier said. “It should help us in the long run. Yeah, they understand. (Long practice) is more of a factor of the new schedule that we’re on as much as anything. It is good to have some sun and we can sweat. It’s a good thing.”
With Frazier and the Vikings prepping for Sunday’s third preseason game as if it was a regular season, Frazier even added in artificial crowd noise during Thursday’s practice because of the road game at San Francisco.
“We’re treating this more like a game during the regular season, so I thought about that for a while and thought it would be the right thing to do if we’re going to treat everything else like it’s a true game situation, in season,” Frazier said. “Why not do the same thing on the road with the crowd noise like we would during the regular season?”
Rookie offensive linemen trying to make their mark: With roster cuts coming next week, offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave was asked about rookie offensive linemen Jeff Baca and Travis Bond as they fight for a backup offensive line spot on the roster.
Baca, a sixth-round pick, has been working with the second-team offensive line throughout training camp and the preseason and has mainly been at left guard and center. The Vikings have tried to see if Baca has the versatility to play center, if needed, after much of his experience came at guard.
Bond, a seventh-rounder, has practiced at right guard throughout much of training camp. Bond, who was drafted with the idea he could also play tackle, has received time on the second-team offensive line when Joe Berger was out, but has mostly been on the third-team line.
“Well one dude is huge,” Musgrave said. “Travis is just a big man and he can move really well. Jeff Baca is a little bit smaller. But both of them are very tenacious. We like the way they finish to the whistle and impose their will on defensive linemen.”