The Vikings know they won't be able to replace fullback Tony Richardson's leadership and experience in the lineup, but they have been considering numerous options this week.
With veteran Tony Richardson
likely finished for the season because of a broken arm, the Vikings appear set to go into Sunday's game at Miami with tight ends Jeff Dugan
and Richard Owens
serving as their fullbacks.
Both have received snaps at the position this week during practice, and while the Vikings might look outside the organization eventually, it doesn't appear that will happen this week.
Richardson suffered a fractured right forearm early in Minnesota's loss to Green Bay on Sunday. He already was playing with a fractured right thumb.
Signed as a free agent after spending his first 11 seasons with Kansas City, Richardson served as the lead blocker for running back Chester Taylor
and also was an option out of the backfield as a receiver.
He will finish the season with 13 receptions for 111 yards and with five rushing attempts for 12 yards. Richardson's injury will take six weeks to heal, and with only seven games left in the season, the Vikings are expected to place him on injured reserve this week.
"Tony Richardson is a great leader on our team," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "He's a great leader in the locker room. He does a great job for us in the huddle. He's a calming influence; he has great experiences.
"I don't think that you can replace the experience that he has, but again, anytime somebody goes down with an injury, it gives other guys opportunities to be able to shine. Somebody is going to get an opportunity to go in there and show us what they can do."
Dugan and Owens both saw some time at fullback either in the Vikings' minicamps or training camps. Owens has played in every game this season at tight end. Dugan, however, was inactive for the first eight games before being up on the 45-man game-day roster last Sunday just in case Richardson's thumb did not hold up.
CB Fred Smoot (groin) was added to the injury report Thursday and is listed as questionable. He missed at least a portion of practice. Smoot had practiced for the first time Wednesday after returning to the team following the death of his half-brother on Nov. 5. Smoot missed last Sunday's loss to the Packers. Asked if Smoot would start Sunday, Vikings defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin said, "That remains to be seen."
WR Marcus Robinson took part in a portion of practice for a second consecutive day Thursday and remains listed as questionable on the injury report. Robinson has missed three consecutive games because of a lower back injury.
MLB Napoleon Harris took part in a portion of practice Thursday and wore a slightly bigger soft-cast wrap to protect his dislocated left wrist. He remains listed as questionable.
RB Chester Taylor (calf) missed part of practice Thursday and is listed as questionable. Taylor also was on the report last week.
CB Cedric Griffin (foot) missed part of practice Thursday and is listed as questionable. There is little doubt he will play Sunday; defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin said if Griffin does not start for Fred Smoot that the rookie corner would be the main nickel back.
LB E.J. Henderson (hamstring) missed part of practice Thursday and is listed as questionable.
LG Steve Hutchinson (knee) missed part of practice Thursday and is listed as questionable.
DT Pat Williams (foot) missed part of practice Thursday and is listed as probable. Williams also was on the injury report last week.
C Matt Birk (neck) missed part of practice Thursday and is listed as probable.
RG Artis Hicks (hip) missed part of practice Thursday and is listed as probable.
FB Richard Owens (knee) missed part of practice Thursday and is listed as probable.
LB Dontarrious Thomas (hamstring) missed part of practice Thursday and is listed as probable.