Smith: Turf toe more painful than it sounds

Harrison Smith is one of the NFL's tough guys and enjoys a good hard hit on an offensive playmaker, so it was hard for him to accept that something called "turf toe" could be so painful and knock him out of action for so long. He discussed the injury, the options, his doctor-dad's help, and how he hopes to play cool the next few weeks.

Injured Vikings safety Harrison Smith has two problems working against him right now. The most obvious problem is that he is walking around on crutches with his left foot in a cast and, in a best-case scenario, won't be back in uniform for the Vikings for two months with a turf toe injury.

The second problem is he is getting tired of trying to explain the specifics of his injury because he doesn't like the sound of turf toe keeping a football player sidelined. Its name tends to imply that it is a minor injury that shouldn't have him on the eight-week injured reserve list.

"Everybody keeps asking me what I have?" Smith said. "Turf toe sounds like such a non-serious injury in my mind. But it was pretty painful. I didn't really know (the severity). I've got hurt before and kept playing and try to walk it off. I tried to walk it off, but when I put my weight on it, it I knew I couldn't put any weight on it."

Smith has suffered a similar injury, but it was a much milder form of turf toe, when he was in high school, but there was no comparison to his current injury. He got a couple of opinions, thanks to his father – who is a plastic surgeon. While he isn't qualified to make a foot diagnosis, he has access to fellow doctors and surgeons who have given Smith a lot of expert analysis of his ailing foot.

"My father is by no means a foot expert, but he's a doctor," Smith said. "He's always one I bounce (injury questions) off of. He has friends all throughout the business and helps out from a personal level. (Vikings head trainer) Eric Sugarman does a great job. They're not trying to rush me back or anything. They just to make sure it gets done right and I see the right people."

The plan is to bring Smith along slowly and steadily to make progress in his return. With eight weeks in which he can't be on the active roster, there isn't a need to rush it.

"There's no exact timetable," Smith said. "It's just (about) keeping it still for a little while – letting it try to heal – and then move it around and gradually see if it works out. If it doesn't, then we go from there."

The hope is the rest and rehab will heal the foot at its own pace and, at the current time, surgery is being viewed as a last resort.

"Any time you can avoid opening it up (surgically) you avoid a longer recovery," Smith said. "Hopefully, just rest and keeping it immobilized will bring it back."

In some ways, Smith feels fortunate that surgery is being viewed as a logical option. He wasn't sure about that as he tried to "walk off" the injury on the sidelines against Carolina at the Metrodome and immediately determined that this injury was worse than most he has sustained during his football career.

"There's no pain now," Smith said. "Initially, it was one of the more painful things I've had on the football field – not necessarily what happened to it, but trying to walk on it afterward. It's right on the ball of the foot. That's where all your pressure is."

Smith remains positive that he can make his return to the field before training camp next summer in Mankato and hopes he can help contribute for the Vikings in December down the 2013 season stretch run. His biggest problem is being muzzled by the doctors and training staff because his warrior mentality kicks in once the excruciating pain subsides.

"As an athlete, you always feel like you're going to be healed in like a week," Smith said. "That's just our mindset. But there is a possibility that it could require surgery. Hopefully it won't and I'll be able to come back."

The biggest problem the staff might face as Smith tries to recovery is his willingness to embellish his recovery. With a mischievous smile, Smith said the training staff will have a hard time keeping him off the field when he thinks he ready and he may not be completely honest with how he's doing because he's played hurt before.

"If I'm a little nicked up, if I can play, I'm going to play," Smith said. "At the same time, I don't want to go out there, not be able to perform and hurt the team. (Sugarman and his staff) will have to keep an eye on me to see if I'm telling the truth or not."

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.

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