EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Now that the Minnesota Vikings have made the playoffs, don’t expect nagging injuries to keep out stars such as Adrian Peterson and Antoine Winfield, or quarterback Christian Ponder.
Winfield, a veteran cornerback dealing with a broken bone in his left hand, didn’t practice Thursday, but said he “definitely” will play when Minnesota travels to Green Bay for Saturday night’s playoff game against the Packers. Peterson, who’s had a lingering abdominal injury, returned to practice Thursday in limited capacity and is expected to play Saturday.
“Adrian looked good,” coach Leslie Frazier said of the NFL’s leading rusher. “He moved around very well, so that was good to see.”
Ponder is expected to be ready with a bruised elbow that Frazier said is a “little bit tight” and that the team wanted to allow time to “let that elbow calm down a little bit.”
“I think he’ll be all right,” Frazier said. “I think he’ll do everything he can to make sure he’s ready to go. He’s done a lot more stuff mental than physical right now, but should be fine. We’ll have to see how he does tomorrow as well.”
Linebacker Tyrone McKenzie, a key member of the special teams coverage units, isn’t expected to play Saturday because of a shoulder injury suffered last week against Green Bay. Safety Harrison Smith (knee) and defensive end Brian Robison (shoulder) were also limited during Thursday’s practice but are expected to play Saturday. Minnesota doesn’t need to officially designate the game-day status for any players until Friday.
Defensive end Jared Allen (shoulder), cornerback A.J. Jefferson (ankle), tackle Phil Loadholt (knee), punter Chris Kluwe (left knee) and defensive end George Johnson were listed on the injury report as full participants.
Winfield started last week’s game but had to leave midway through the second quarter when the pain became too much to tolerate. Winfield played with a small pad under his glove to try and protect the broken bone. But after trying to jam Packers receiver Greg Jennings on a touchdown play, Winfield had to leave and didn’t return.
“I just had a glove over it with a little pad right there,” Winfield said. “It wasn’t effective at all. … I thought I could play with it. It felt pretty good, but I couldn’t at all.”
Winfield said his hand is feeling better than it was last week. He will wear a hard cast this week, with his fingers exposed. He’s said he won’t miss the playoffs.
“Not at all; I have the offseason to heal up,” Winfield said. “I’m definitely going to be out there on Saturday night.”
Before Winfield left last week, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers was 8 of 15 for 57 yards and the touchdown on the play Winfield aggravated the injury. Rodgers was 20 of 25 for 308 yards and three touchdowns the rest of the game, particularly picking on fill-ins A.J. Jefferson and Marcus Sherels.
“He makes a difference,” Frazier said. “There’s no question about it. So, it’s encouraging that he felt better today. He provides leadership along with he’s had a very, very good year for us. It’s hard to replace him. But other guys will have to step up, and we’ll have to play better without him if for some reason something were to happen in the game. We’ll have to do a much better job than we did last week in his absence, if that were to occur.”