With four rookies starting on defense because of injuries against the NFL’s top-ranked offense, Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer was generally pleased with the performance in a 23-20 loss at Arizona.
But the Vikings should be getting some of their veteran defensive starters back after a 10-day break between games.
The Vikings were without their three best defensive players, one at each level of the defense.
Nose tackle Linval Joseph, who was one of the leading tacklers in the NFL among defensive lineman before a toe injury sidelined him, has missed the last two games.
Linebacker Anthony Barr was inactive because of a groin injury and was also dealing with a broken hand.
Safety Harrison Smith was sidelined with knee and hamstring issues.
And starting safety Andrew Sendejo didn’t play the last two games because of a knee injury.
“Sendejo would probably be quickest back, I would guess,” Zimmer said Friday. “The others – talking about Barr, Joseph and Harrison – they’re all kind of right in the same vicinity.”
That “vicinity” is in the wait-and-see range with a generally upbeat forecast.
“I know that I got a pretty good report this morning that they’re all moving in the right direction and we’ll just have to see how that goes. I’m hopeful,” Zimmer said. “These guys want to play bad. That’s one thing about this football team is they want to fight for each other and these guys want to get back in there and fight as soon as they can.”
The Vikings (8-5) have three games left in the regular season, starting with back-to-back home games against the Chicago Bears and New York Giants before traveling to Green Bay for the regular-season finale that could decide the NFC North division.
The Vikings got out of the Arizona loss relatively unscathed. Cornerback Xavier Rhodes missed six snaps after taking a hit on his right wrist and getting it taped up.
“After the game he said he was fine,” Zimmer said, indicating it wasn’t broken. “I don’t even think he’s getting it x-rayed.”
In all, the Vikings had six rookies starting, with defensive end Danielle Hunter also playing a significant role on defense.
“I think that our young players that played, I think we had four rookies that started on defense and I think seven rookies, seven or eight, that ended up playing a huge number of plays in the game and tried to perform the game plan as good as possible,” Zimmer said. “I really want to credit the players for the way that they attacked this situation and especially coming after the loss that we had the week before.”