It may be premature to place a help wanted sign out front of the Minnesota Vikings training camp facility in Mankato, but the recent knee injury suffered by starting cornerback Brian Williams has the team concerned. Counted on to be a factor heading into the 2004 season, Williams could be lost indefinitely.
In what the Vikings medical staff has deemed a knee sprain, the team could least afford to lose the steady and improving three-year pro from North Carolina State. With Williams teaming with Antoine Winfield, the Vikings' prize free agent acquisition this past off-season, Minnesota appeared to be in prime position to improve its defense under the direction of coordinator Ted Cottrell.
"The loss of Williams is a significant issue at this time," a team source said. "He made great strides last season and is an important part of what we are doing here. He and Winfield provide this defense an entirely different look, especially playing under the new defensive scheme."
The knee sprain, a diagnosis which has been less than convincing when eluded upon by Vikings personnel, could be an injury that hampers the promising cornerback for much longer than the three to four weeks he is projected to miss. With any knee sprain, there is a degree of damage to the joint and supporting structural mass, which is easily regarded as a sprain.
In the case of Williams, indications are he has indeed suffered moderate ligament damage.
"Our early evaluation of Williams was that he could have suffered a torn or partially torn ligament. Once the immediate trauma to the knee was further evaluated and after an MRI, our worst fears were not realized," the source continued. "He has some issue with the knee, but the structure is sound and at this time rest and rehab are the first option to partake. A good sign is that the swelling in the knee has subsided and the pain has lessened to a certain extent.
"If the knee does not respond over the next couple weeks, we may have to take another look at it. Right now, we don't want to rush him back too soon — that could potentially create further damage to the knee and set his recovery back."
Veteran Ken Irvin, originally expected to be the team's nickel back this season, is now expected to take over at the corner in Williams' absence.
"Irvin played reasonably well last season for us. He played out of position for a good portion of the season. He truly is a third or fourth corner at this point in his career," the source added. "We're confident he will rise to the occasion and play well in Brian's absence."
Williams' Prognosis Still Uncertain
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