EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Standout safety Harrison Smith and starting center Joe Berger will not be on the field with the Minnesota Vikings when they play at Jacksonville on Sunday.
It remains to be seen if coach Mike Zimmer will be on the sideline with them or not.
Smith was ruled out on Friday with a severely sprained left ankle, while Berger will miss his second straight game with a concussion. Zimmer is returning to the team after missing the previous game because of a detached retina, but the coach was mum on if doctors would allow him to coach from the sideline or if he would have to be in a booth.
Zimmer has been cleared to fly with the team to Jacksonville, but when asked if he could be on the sideline, he said, “I don't know.”
“I'm not going to worry about it,” Zimmer said. “The doctor just doesn't want me to get hit. That's all. So, we'll be OK.”
Smith, one of the team's top playmakers, missed all three days of practice this week and could be out longer after hurting his ankle during a loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Dec. 1. Zimmer said earlier this week that Anthony Harris would likely start in place of Smith, though rookie Jayron Kearse was also an option.
Nick Easton made his first career start against the Cowboys while filling in for Berger, who practiced on a limited basis Wednesday, but did not practice Thursday or Friday and remains in the league's concussion protocol.
The injury-ravaged offensive line has been the team's biggest weakness this season, but Zimmer said he was encouraged by what he saw from Easton.
“He has been quick to get to the second level,” Zimmer said. “He has been good on the double teams. He has got a low center of gravity with some strength, so he hasn't been getting overpowered. So, I think, there has been a lot of good things, and obviously, there are some things he has got to clean up.”
Punt returner Marcus Sherels is listed as questionable with a rib injury.