The Vikings practiced without two of their top defensive players today, but the Lions were missing three of their top offensive players.
Vikings free safety Harrison Smith (ankle) and linebacker Chad Greenway (hand, ankle) are on today’s injury report as having not practiced. Tight end Kyle Rudolph (hernia surgery) also didn’t practice and is still weeks from returning.
Meanwhile, in Detroit, receiver Calvin Johnson (ankle), running back Reggie Bush (ankle) and tight end Joseph Fauria (ankle) all did not practice. Also held out of practice was linebacker Travis Lewis (quadricep).
Limited in today’s practice for the Vikings were: WR Cordarrelle Patterson (hip) and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (elbow).
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (ankle) is on the injury report but had full participation. Also on the report with full participation are RB Jerick McKinnon (ankle), linebacker Michael Mauti (foot) and running back Matt Asiata (groin).
There are bigger, more important off-field questions that remain unanswered about Adrian Peterson. Those will be answered in due time.
For now, we have an important piece of information in trying to unpack this important on-field question: Will Peterson ever play for the Vikings again (a question that, a month ago, seemed ludicrous)?
The key piece of information gleaned from Wednesday’s court appearance is that a trial date has been set for Dec. 1. Peterson didn’t enter a plea during his appearance, but it seemed evident from his attorneys that the Vikings RB maintains a not guilty stance and is eager to tell his side of the story — meaning it is likely, in our mind, that the case will go to trial.
It’s still possible the trial could be pushed up to mid-November if other cases fall off the docket. That’s the time frame Peterson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, pushed for.
Here, then, are the best- and worst-case scenarios for Peterson solely in terms of returning to the field:
BEST: The trial begins earlier than expected, sometime during the week of Nov. 18, and concludes within 10 days with a not guilty verdict for Peterson. That could theoretically give Peterson the chance to play the final 4 or 5 games of the season. Even if the trial is Dec. 1 and he is found not guilty, there could be 2 or 3 games left in the season by the time the case is resolved (the Vikings’ final game is Dec. 28).
WORST: The trial is delayed for any reason — including the assigning of a new judge, since the prosecution has asked presiding judge Kelly W. Case to recuse himself after calling attorneys on both sides of the case “media whores.” (This played out in a rather humorous part of Wednesday’s proceedings, and Case apologized). Obviously if it is pushed back much more than Dec. 1, the chance of having it resolved before the season ended is slim.
Also, regardless of when it goes to trial, if Peterson is found guilty he could very well face a suspension from the NFL that wipes out the rest of his season. Even if he’s found not guilty, we suppose, the NFL could take some sort of action.
If Peterson doesn’t play for the Vikings this season, it would be a reasonable guess to say that given all that’s happened this year, plus Peterson’s age (he’ll turn 30 in March), plus the way his contract is structured to limit salary cap damage if the Vikings release him in 2015, he very well might never play for Minnesota again.
Vikings safety Harrison Smith said he’s preparing as if he’s going to play on Sunday against the Lions. He participated in the team’s walkthrough on Wednesday.
“He did a lot this morning in the walkthrough, so I expect that he’s probably going to play,” head coach Mike Zimmer said.
Both Zimmer and Smith are optimistic after Smith suffered a sprained ankle in Thursday’s 42-10 loss to the Packers at Lambeau Field. He was walking around the locker room on Friday in crutches and a walking boot on his left foot.
“It’s feeling better, just trying not to take any steps back and just get it better every day,” Smith said.
Smith said he received extra treatment over the weekend and attempted to stay off his feet during the break. He still feels discomfort in the ankle but has attempted to work around it.
If Smith can’t go, Andrew Sendejo would start with Robert Blanton at safety spots. Sendejo is the backup at both free and strong safety, playing a similar role he was in last season. He ended up starting 10 games with injuries to both Smith and Jamarca Sanford last year.
Sendejo has only had two snaps at safety this season, but he’s ready to step in if Smith isn’t ready to play.
“I’m not really worried about,” Sendejo said. “I’ve done it before where I’ve had zero snaps at all and gone in and played. As the next guy up, you’re always ready because any game you have to know both safety spots. If either one of those guys were to go down in a game, I have to go in and play for them. It’s the same that I do every week.”