The sight of Harrison Smith in the Vikings locker room was a welcome sight, until you saw his footwear.
With five days before the Vikings meet the New York Giants on Monday Night Football, their most dynamic defensive playmaker in the secondary – safety Harrison Smith – had a walking boot on his left foot and was walking with a noticeable limp. While that would be expected in a walking boot, he moved slowly through the locker room, attempting not to put his full weight on his ailing foot.
"It sucks," Smith said. "It's hard to believe a turf toe type of injury can mess you up this much."
Smith suffered a turf toe injury in the second half of the Vikings' loss to Carolina Sunday and is waiting for the foot to heal before he can start the rehab process. Turf toe is painful to anyone, but playing a position that requires foot dexterity and chasing down the ball when in flight adds to the pain.
Smith has some experience with turf toe, so he knows what he's up against.
"I'm just working on it to try to get it loose and see where we can go with it," Smith said. "I had a turf toe injury in high school and remember how it felt. It wasn't good."
Smith hasn't missed a game in his NFL career, but that streak is in serious jeopardy Monday given his current condition. Not only don't you play in a walking boot, you don't practice.
The Vikings secondary has been hit by injuries harder than any other unit on the team. Starters Chris Cook and Jamarca Sanford have both missed a game due to injuries. Xavier Rhodes is hurting. But no loss to the secondary would be more impactful than if Smith is sidelined. He trails only linebackers Erin Henderson and Chad Greenway in terms of tackles, has the only two interceptions from the Vikings secondary and has a forced fumble and recovered a fumble.
The potential loss of Smith is tantamount to losing Greenway or Jared Allen or Matt Kalil or Adrian Peterson. In each of those respective meeting rooms, they're the big dog. Smith has become that player. He is the closest thing the Vikings have had to a difference-maker at safety since Darren Sharper was Pick-6ing. His potential absence is huge. Eli Manning will sleep restfully if he knows Smith is out for Monday night.
Smith is only in his second season, but he might have earned the right to play without practicing. The Vikings need to beat the Giants. That task will be made much more difficult if Smith can't play.
Where does he stand? That's up to the medical staff. The spirit is willing, but a safety with a bad wheel tends to lead to salsa dances. Smith wants to play, but will he get the green light when the boot comes off?
"I'm not really sure," Smith said. "We're figuring it out as we go. I just have to wait to see what the next move is."
Smith doesn't want to see his consecutive-games streak as an NFL player come to an end at 21 games. But from the looks of what was witnessed in the Vikings locker room Wednesday, it may take the kind of Divine Intervention that let Cris Carter play through a high ankle sprain for Smith's streak to hit his jersey number of 22.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Smith respects the pain of turf toe
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