Smith ‘structurally' good, some pain remains

Harrison Smith said there was some pain in his first practice back but he believes everything is "structurally" sound with his foot. Plus, Leslie Frazier talks about Toby Gerhart's role and the impact of an overtime game and 94 snaps for the defenders.

Harrison Smith practiced for the first time in six weeks on Friday, but it could take another week before he and his Minnesota Vikings can be sure he's fully ready for his comeback in mid-December.

Smith, the hard-hitting enforcer of the defensive backfield, tried out his rehabilitating turf toe during a practice for the first time. Because he was placed on the injured reserve/designated for return list, Smith was first eligible to practice Friday but can't play until at least the Dec. 15 game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

"He really looked pretty good," head coach Leslie Frazier said. "I was telling (athletic trainer) Eric Sugarman a little bit ago that that rule, it's a good rule, but man, I wouldn't mind if he could play this week. He moved around well enough where you'd have no qualms putting him in the ballgame."

Smith, who has been eager to get back on the field, was more reserved than Frazier after practice.

"Everything felt good structurally. I'm able to perform," he said. "There is a little bit of pain with certain movements, (but) I can do everything. I don't want to take any steps back. I'm just pacing myself. I'm getting a little too excited."

Getting the full range of motion back is the biggest remaining hurdle in Smith being able to play effectively in just over two weeks, but the team has given him some special soles for his shoes to aid his comfort.

"It's almost got all the range back. It's just when you push it that far it starts to hurt a little bit," he said. "… I think getting those movements to push it to the limit will help it, make the pain go away over time."

The Vikings only have walk-through practices the day before a game and only have film review on Mondays before taking Tuesdays off. That means it won't be until next Wednesday before Smith is really able to push it again in a practice setting.

Until then, he hopes to get in a couple of cardio workouts and generally let the foot rest and recover some more.

"All the little muscles and the stuff in there, they get very tired real quick. So just building those back up," he said.


In a different situation, Toby Gerhart would be a featured running back, according to Frazier. But as long as the Vikings have Adrian Peterson able to carry the load, Gerhart will be relegated to backup duty.

"Whenever he's gotten an opportunity, even the year when Adrian got injured, he stepped in and played very, very well. And you see now when Adrian's not on the field and he gets his chance, he does extremely well," Frazier said. "He's a good back and one of the best teammates you could ever ask for. He's not one of those guys who complains about being a backup to Adrian. He's good on special teams. He's the consummate pro and I think he'd be a featured guy."

The Vikings had their ground game on point last Sunday against the Green Bay Packers. Peterson carried 32 times for 146 yards and Gerhart added eight carries for 91 yards.

"We do need to insert him more often than we do, even in the first half, not just wait until the second half when Adrian gets tired or gets fatigued," Frazier said.

However, Frazier cautioned that Gerhart probably would get more carries than he did last week.


With an overtime game in Green Bay, some Vikings defenders were on the field for all 94 plays. The list of true full-timers included safties Andrew Sendejo and Jamarca Sanford, linebackers Audie Cole (making his first start) and Chad Greenway, and cornerback Chris Cook.

"When the adrenaline is flowing, you're not counting plays, you're just playing. You don't really feel it until after the game or when you come back on a Wednesday and begin practice," Frazier said. "We've tried to cut back some things during this week to try to take something off of their legs. I'm glad we didn't have a short week, like a Thursday game. But we just tried to monitor their snaps in practice, but at the end of the day you've got to ready to play the next ballgame."

The Vikings did, however, wear pads for Thursday's practice.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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