Defensive Shuffling Likely Again

The Vikings made a season-long adjustment last week with Erasmus James out, and now it looks like another change in the lineup will be necessary this Sunday.

For the second consecutive week, it appears the Vikings will have to shuffle their starting defense because of an injury.

Last Sunday, the team had Kenechi Udeze at right end in place of Erasmus James, who was lost for the season because of a knee injury. This week, strong-side linebacker Ben Leber appears to be a long shot to play because of a sprained left knee.

Leber has remained confident about his availability for Sunday's game in Buffalo but the reality is he wasn't able to practice Wednesday or Thursday.

"I don't think it's all that vitally important," to have practiced those two days, Leber said. "They're not doing anything too crazy and too unconventional that I don't already know."

Still, coaches are often hesitant to use a player who wasn't able to practice during the two most important days of preparation for an upcoming game.

Granted Leber was able to return wearing a brace last Sunday against Chicago after being injured in the first quarter, but it's hard to believe the Vikings will take any chances with him when they might end up losing him for an extended period.

If Leber is held out, the likely starter on the strong side will be Dontarrious Thomas. Veteran Jason Glenn is listed as Leber's backup, but the reality is that Thomas is the No. 1 backup at all three linebacker spots.

Thomas hasn't played the strong side before but is confident he could adjust. "I'm familiar with the terminology and just being aware because playing the Mike you have to be aware of what all three positions do," said Thomas, a middle linebacker by trade, "It's not a hard position to learn."


  • NT Pat Williams practiced for a second consecutive day despite a sprained left ankle. Williams remains listed as questionable on the injury report but is expected to play Sunday at Buffalo.

  • RB Chester Taylor was added to the injury report because of an ankle problem. He missed a portion of practice Thursday but is listed as probable for Sunday's game. Taylor has rushed for 275 yards on 75 carries and a touchdown this season.

  • WR Marcus Robinson, slowed by a right hamstring injury that kept him out of Sunday's game, appears back at full speed and should be able to play this weekend.

  • RB Artose Pinner is expected to remain in a kickoff return role for the Vikings, although WR Troy Williamson remains a candidate to return some kicks. Williamson is playing with a sore shoulder and the Vikings don't want him taking a consistent pounding on returns.

  • CB Antoine Winfield and LB Napoleon Harris are tied for the team lead with 21 tackles apiece. Winfield has 19 solo and Harris 17 solo, according to the coaches' film review.

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