Notebook: Xavier Rhodes cleared; Harrison Smith 'looked pretty good'
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - The NFC North as a whole has been down this year. To the point where it seems like the best chance the Vikings have to win games is playing within its division. Through that lens, Minnesota is relatively healthy at the right time.
The Vikings will play this Sunday without playmakers Kyle Rudolph and Harrison Smith, and Josh Robinson is also not quite ready to make his return. The good news for Vikings fans is that Smith practice Friday and head coach Leslie Frazier said Smith moved around well.
"He really looked pretty good," Frazier said of the team's only premier safety, who has missed six weeks with turf toe. The Vikings placed Smith on the injured reserve-designated to return list, so he's ineligible to return until the Vikings play the Philadelphia Eagles on Dec. 15.
"I was telling Eric Sugarman a little bit ago that that rule, it's a good rule, but man, I wouldn't mind if could play this week," Frazier said. "He moved around well enough where you'd have no qualms putting him in the ballgame. He looked good. So we'll get a chance to look at him next week and hopefully we'll have him the following week to play."
Frazier cautioned that the second day is often more vital to evaluating how far a player come in an injury rehabilitation.
"This is only the first day so you've got to see how he feels tomorrow, but the way he moved around, he looked good," Frazier said of Smith. "So we'll see how he feels tomorrow."
Rhodes, who had taken the place of the injured Josh Robinson (sternum), is back to practicing, after suffering a concussion in the tie with Green Bay.
"It's a big deal," Frazier said of Rhodes' return. "We're pretty thin in the secondary and playing with a lot of guys that are out of position that you don't really want to play as much as we're having to play them, because it does affect your special teams as well.
"So to have Xavier back, that's a big deal. It helps us from a depth standpoint and you're putting a guy at corner who is a corner as opposed to what we're doing with Robert [Blanton] and what we end up having to do with Marcus [Sherels], who is more of a spot player, not a guy you want to take 60 snaps. So hopefully Xavier will be able to finish the game and play well."
With the Bears physical receivers, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, having a guy with Rhodes' size could be critical, Frazier said.
The sore groin that has at times held Adrian Peterson back is healing. The Vikings rested Peterson each of the past two days.
"Just trying to rest that groin a little bit and let him get treatment," Frazier said. "Not 100 percent but not to the point where it's worse than it was when we played Green Bay."
If Peterson is not a full-go, the two-headed approach with Toby Gerhart has worked well recently. Frazier said he thinks Gerhart would be a featured back on another team without Peterson.
"Whenever he's gotten an opportunity, even the year when Adrian got injured, he stepped in and played very, very well," Frazier said of Gerhart. "And you see now when Adrian's not on the field and he gets his chance, he does extremely well. 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 team may not give Gerhart more total carries than he got last week, but Frazier said he'd like to distribute the workload more evenly between the first and second halves.
"We do need to insert [Gerhart] more often than we do even in the first half not just wait until wait until the second half when Adrian gets tired or gets fatigued.''