EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Following the Minnesota Vikings’ practice on Wednesday, Kevin Williams was right there with his fellow defensive linemen running the width of the field to get in extra conditioning work.
Williams wasn’t proclaiming himself a sure bet for Sunday’s game at Chicago, but running on his injured left knee was more proof he’s getting close to returning for Minnesota. Williams returned to practice for the first time since being injured in the third quarter of the third preseason game on a chop block and suffering a bone bruise.
Last week, Williams said he would be “shocked” if he missed this week’s game against the Bears. Wednesday was the biggest test for his knee and he’s waiting to see if he’s sore on Thursday morning.
“Uh, talk to me tomorrow, hopefully won’t be too sore tomorrow because I hadn’t done anything in a couple of weeks and we’ll go from there,” Williams said when asked if he has any question about being ready for Sunday. “That’s pretty much the key. We did a little bit of work today, got the chance to move around. If no residual going on tomorrow, that’s always positive and we work on Friday then.”
Williams missed just the fifth game of his 11-year career and only the third due to injury in last week’s 34-24 loss at Detroit. Without their anchor in the middle of the defensive line, the Vikings allowed the Lions to rush for 117 yards and two touchdowns.
“Kevin is so important to us that his absence, it makes a difference,” coach Leslie Frazier said Wednesday. “He’s one of the best to ever play the game at his position. So, anytime you don’t have him, not only from a performance standpoint but a leadership standpoint as well, it’s going to affect your team. They did run the ball effectively against us. Having Kevin, I think it would have helped us, for sure. Glad to have him back. Hopefully everything will go fine this week and we’ll have him on Sunday as well.”
Williams said it looked like Detroit tried to take advantage of Minnesota in the middle and blamed the issues on fundamentals. Reggie Bush ran for 90 yards on 21 carries, doing a lot of his work in the middle of the field.
“Win or lose, my personal experience, I hate missing a game,” Williams said. “You want to be out there contributing, helping the team win. 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 was wearing a sleeve on his right leg in practice Wednesday and didn’t have any protective brace on his injured knee. He said his knee “felt great” as he got out for work with the team in practice.
Frazier said last week the team needs to see if Williams can brace himself and push up against opponents and be able to withstand pressure on the knee. Williams was listed as a limited participant in Wednesday’s practice and was testing himself with full-speed movements.
“Today was just a chance to work on getting off with some quick movement,” Williams said. “I mean, we didn’t have pads on but the guys were still moving faster and get the chance to react full-speed and see how the leg holds up.”
Williams, Johnson don’t believe Oklahoma State reports: Sports Illustrated has been releasing an in-depth report about Oklahoma State this week, which includes accusations players were paid while playing football for the Cowboys.
Williams and Charlie Johnson both deny receiving any improper benefits. Johnson said he “didn’t see any money being handled, never saw any money, never participated in anything like that.”
Williams said he hadn’t seen the Sports Illustrated reports, but he’s received a lot of text messages regarding the issue. Williams said he is only focused on getting back and winning Sunday’s game. The magazine said a dozen players have been named, including former NFL players Tatum Bell and Darrent Williams, but Kevin Williams and Johnson are not named.
“I don’t know where they’re getting their information from,” Williams said. “I didn’t receive any money, didn’t get any benefits other than scholarships from Oklahoma State.”
Loadholt, Robinson and Sullivan limited: Along with Williams, Minnesota listed right tackle Phil Loadholt (knee), cornerback Josh Robinson (quadriceps) and center John Sullivan (knee) as limited for Wednesday’s practice.
Sullivan was injured in Sunday’s game when he took a low hit from behind by Detroit defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who was fined $100,000 by the NFL on Tuesday. Suh’s fine, because of past transgressions, is the largest fine for an on-field incident in NFL history.
“That’s the NFL,” Frazier said of the fine. “They handled it and I don’t have to worry about it. They handled it.”
Linebacker Larry Dean (shoulder), linebacker Erin Henderson (heel), safety Jamarca Sanford (shoulder) and safety Mistral Raymond (shoulder) were listed on the injury report but were full participants in Wednesday’s practice. Sanford’s is a new addition to the list.
Cornerback Charles Tillman (knee) was the only player listed on the Chicago Bears’ injury report. Tillman was limited Wednesday.
Banyard back on practice squad: Minnesota made a pair of changes to the practice squad this week, bringing back running back Joe Banyard in the process.
Banyard was signed to the practice squad after being one of the team’s final cuts following the preseason, but was released last week as the team added running back Bradley Randle. Randle was released to make room for Banyard again.
The Vikings signed defensive back Robert Steeples to the practice squad Wednesday. Steeples is an undrafted rookie from Memphis who spent time with the St. Louis Rams in the preseason. Minnesota released defense end Tristan Okpalaugo from the practice squad a day earlier.