Vikings’ Harrison Smith hampered by turf toe

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Eli Manning is 33rd in the NFL in quarterback rating. The Minnesota Vikings are 29th in the league against the pass.

It might be resistible force against moveable object on Monday in New York. The Vikings announced Thursday that safety Harrison Smith, the most dependable player in a struggling secondary, will miss Monday night’s game with a turf toe injury and could be sidelined for much longer.

Smith, who is tied for the team lead with two interceptions and third in tackles, sustained the injury in last week’s game and has been in a walking boot. Coach Leslie Frazier said the team is trying to decide if surgery is an option for Smith and a stint on injured reserve, with the designation to return, is a possibility as well.

“It’s probably a little more serious than we would like,” Frazier said. “He’s definitely going to be out for this game and we’ll determine a little bit more as we get some opinions about where he is and what we need to do. We’ll probably know a little bit more in the next couple days about how we want to approach where he is and what we want to do with him.”

Frazier said Andrew Sendejo, who started in place of Jamarca Sanford at the other safety spot in Week 4, would start for Smith.

Surgery an option for Smith: “We are discussing that possibility. We also are looking at the possibility of not having to do any surgery. We’re still going through some of that. We’ll determine it here pretty soon.”

The team is trying to get more information as Smith’s injury is looked at by doctors. Frazier said Smith “potentially” could go on injured reserve and it is a “definitely a part of the conversation.” If Smith were placed on IR and was designated to return, he could play, if healthy, eight weeks later. Each team has the option to use the designation once a season.

“Harrison is an outstanding young safety and he’s done a great job for us and in my mind is one of the best safeties in our league, but Andrew, Mistral (Raymond), Robert Blanton, those guys will do a good job when they’re in there,” Frazier said. “Jamarca will be out there. They’re all going to do a good job. They worked hard in practice and they’ll prepare well, and they’ll play well. But Harrison, he’s a big-play guy for us, so we’re going to miss him.”

Smith leads Minnesota in interceptions over the past two seasons. As a first-round selection last year, Smith was tied with cornerback Antoine Winfield for the team lead with three interceptions. This season, he’s tied with linebackers Chad Greenway and Erin Henderson with two interceptions.

The Vikings have seven turnovers this season, but Smith’s interceptions are the only ones from a defensive back. Smith has 30 tackles in five games this season, third behind Greenway and Henderson.

Sendejo had six tackles in Week 4 against Pittsburgh starting for Sanford. Frazier said the team wouldn’t rotate Sendejo with Raymond or Blanton.

“A combination of what he did in training camp and what he has done once he’s gotten in the ballgame,” Frazier said of Sendejo earning the job over Raymond. “He played quite a bit against Pittsburgh and he did some good things at safety, where he and Mistral rotated at the position. He did enough to make us feel like he can do a good job in the starting role.”

Raymond began last season as a starter at safety, but was hurt and ended up losing his job to Sanford. This season he’s only been active for one game.

“He’s done some good things, but the injury bug has gotten him a few times,” Frazier said. “He’s back now, he’s healthy. But part of why he didn’t play early on was the injuries coming out of training camp. He’s healthy. He did a good job when we got him in the game against Pittsburgh when they rotated. We have confidence that if he has to play in this ballgame he would do a good job as well. But the injuries have kind of set him back every time he has kind of taken a step forward.”

Frazier said the team is still developing Robert Blanton, in his second season with the Vikings. He made the move from college cornerback to NFL safety, but he isn’t ready to compete for time at safety yet.

“We do have high hopes for him,” Frazier said. “He’s coming along and he’s doing a very good job on special teams for us right now. Really excited about what he’s doing there, and his time will eventually come as a safety. He’s making a lot of progress. As you recall, it was a transition for him that first year going from a corner in college to a safety. But he’s grown so much as a safety. So we have confidence when his time comes he’ll play well.”

Cornerback A.J. Jefferson is also dealing with an ankle injury and missed practice Thursday.

Kicker Blair Walsh didn’t practice Thursday because he’s still dealing with the left hamstring injury he suffered last week. Walsh did play in Sunday’s game.
Adrian Peterson (hamstring) was listed as limited along with cornerback Xavier Rhodes (ankle), defensive tackle Kevin Williams (knee) and receiver Jarius Wright (ankle). Quarterback Christian Ponder (ribs), center John Sullivan (hand) and tight end Rhett Ellison (knee) were full participants in practice.

Roster moves: Minnesota put linebacker Desmond Bishop, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during Sunday’s game, on injured reserve, officially ending his first season with the team.

The Vikings promoted receiver Rodney Smith from the practice squad to the active roster and signed safety Brandan Bishop, who was with the team in training camp, to the practice squad.

Instead of adding a defensive back to help cover for the injuries in the secondary, Minnesota made the move to promote Smith and now has six wide receivers on the 53-man roster.

“When I talked with (general manager Rick Spielman) and the personnel guys and they looked around the league at different players and just seeing what the options were there, we looked at our own roster and said, ‘what guy would benefit and where would we benefit by bringing our own guys up?'” Frazier said. “Rodney was that guy compared to what was out there. I think long-term it’s going to be a good move for us.”

Smith is a big receiver at 6-foot-5 and was signed by Minnesota after the draft as an undrafted rookie free agent. Frazier said Smith’s promotion didn’t come as a reaction to another team trying to sign him off the practice squad.

“Rodney’s done a good job,” Frazier said. “He’s worked extremely hard from the day we got him as a free agent. He’s done a terrific job, well deserved for him.”

Frazier said Marvin Mitchell will return to the starting lineup at weakside linebacker in place of Desmond Bishop, who started for the first time last week. Frazier is also hopeful rookie Gerald Hodges can earn playing time as an outside linebacker.

“Gerald has come along,” Frazier said. “He’s a guy who, as we continue, we’re hoping to get him on the field. He got in a couple games, maybe one game now, Pittsburgh, on special teams and he did a good job when he got in. He’ll keep coming as an outside linebacker.”

Childs making progress: Receiver Greg Childs, still recovering from torn patellar tendons in both of his knees during training camp last year, is making progress and Frazier said he hopes Childs will be able to join the team in practice soon.

Childs is on the physically unable to perform list. Childs is eligible, per PUP rules, to return to practice and the team has a three-week window to decide whether to activate him this season.

“He’s making progress to the point where we think pretty soon here we’ll be able to get him on the field with our guys,” Frazier said. “So he’s making positive progress and we’re excited to get him out on the field to integrate with our players.”

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