EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Minnesota Vikings will be without their biggest playmaker in the secondary for at least eight weeks.
Minnesota put safety Harrison Smith on injured reserve on Friday, giving him the designation to return later this season as he tries to recover from a turf toe injury. Smith has to miss at least eight weeks because of the IR designation and is able to return to practice in six weeks.
Coach Leslie Frazier said Smith won’t have surgery and the hope is rehabilitation will help him return this season. Surgery would keep Smith out four to six months, Frazier said. Smith will be re-evaluated after six weeks to see if he will be able to return.
“We’re going to take this approach and then re-evaluate it at the end of that six weeks and see where he is,” Frazier said. “But there’s a possibility that he won’t need (surgery). There are some guys that haven’t had to do it. So we’ll evaluate it when that time is up.”
The Vikings signed cornerback Jacob Lacey, who was with the team in training camp, to replace Smith on the active roster.
Smith’s loss further hits a secondary that ranks 29th in the NFL in terms of passing yards allowed. Smith’s two interceptions were tied for the team lead and he’s the only defensive back on the roster with an interception this season.
Smith has made a big impact for Minnesota in his two seasons after the Vikings jumped back into the first round of last year’s draft to pick Smith 29th overall. He has the most interceptions on the team in the past two seasons and has started every game of his career. He’s third on the team with 30 tackles this season.
“Big time,” defensive coordinator Alan Williams said of the impact of losing Smith. “Any time one of your starters (is) out, it hurts. But the attitude around here, and it’s been since (organized team activities), camp has been that the next guy we prepare him and (defensive backs coach Joe) Woods and all our coaches prepare the next guy well, and that guy has to be able to step in, and the thing is, he doesn’t have to be Harrison, the next guy, he just has to be himself and do his job, and that’s all we expect.”
Andrew Sendejo, who filled in as a starter in Week 4 for Jamarca Sanford, will start in Smith’s place on Monday night against the New York Giants.
“Harrison was a big-time player for us on defense,” said Sendejo, who said he plans to continue playing on special teams. “So, I try to fill those shoes and do my part, not have any lack of production. That’s really what you do as a backup. When you come in, you don’t want any drop-off in production.
“So, I’m going to do the same thing I always do, prepare like I always prepare and just like these other games where I’ve been thrown in at a seconds notice in the third quarter and the London game I started. So, I’ll be ready for it and I’m looking forward to it.”
Sendejo, who recently signed a two-year contract extension with Minnesota, has played mostly special teams in his time with the Vikings since signing with the team midway through the 2011 season.
“I’m not quite sure if we viewed him that way,” Williams said of Sendejo being known for his special teams work. “He had great OTAs, great camp. He’s a fast-twitch guy, high, high motor, and extremely intelligent. So I don’t think we ever viewed him as just a special teams guy, that scenario that he has performed well, but just because he hasn’t had an opportunity to play on defense in the regular season, we look for good things from him.”
Lacey is in his fifth NFL season and had signed with Minnesota in the offseason to compete for a cornerback spot. But he injured his thumb in OTAs and missed much of the offseason program after he had surgery on his thumb. He was released in August, a week after he had arthroscopic knee surgery.
He has six interceptions in four previous seasons spent with the Indianapolis Colts and Detroit Lions.