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Updated: August 25th, 2012 2:41am
Pelissero: Injuries clouding several spots as Vikings' first cuts loom

Pelissero: Injuries clouding several spots as Vikings' first cuts loom

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by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings appear to have made it through three preseason games without a significant injury to a starter, but Friday's 12-10 exhibition loss to San Diego provided enough nicks to cloud looming roster decisions at multiple positions.

In fact, the Vikings are shorthanded enough in some spots it's worth wondering if they'll have to claim some players after Monday's 75-man roster reduction just to get through the preseason finale at Houston without exposing their starters.

The depth concerns start at safety, where Harrison Smith and Jamarca Sanford both started and finished Friday's game because Mistral Raymond (lower back), Andrew Sendejo (ankle), Eric Frampton (groin) and Robert Blanton (hamstring) were unavailable.

They're also short at tight end, where rookie Rhett Ellison banged a knee hard enough to merit an MRI and John Carlson still hasn't returned from his sprained MCL.

They're still carrying 11 cornerbacks for now, but Josh Robinson (concussion) and Marcus Sherels (ankle) may not play against the Texans, and cornerbacks Chris Cook and Antoine Winfield weren't likely to play much in that game anyway.

The good news is most of the Vikings' starters are healthy. The bad news is nearly every position on the roster is subject to some sort of short-term consideration that could muddle the process of getting down to 75, and then to 53 players by 8 p.m. next Friday.

Adrian Peterson (knee) won't be ready to handle a full load in Week 1, and extended action on Friday for Matt Asiata (nine carries for 48 yards) and Derrick Coleman (eight for 15) suggests the Vikings aren't totally sold on Lex Hilliard behind Toby Gerhart yet.

Jerome Simpson's three-game suspension figures to create opportunities for Michael Jenkins, Devin Aromashodu and Stephen Burton, who each have generated all of three preseason receptions.

The injuries to Carlson and Ellison may open the door for Allen Reisner, whose team-high four catches for 47 yards on Friday were a reminder of what he can do in the passing game.

With Geoff Schwartz (sports hernia surgery) and DeMarcus Love (pectoral) sidelined, Pat Brown and Chris DeGeare are both seeing time at guard and tackle as the Vikings try to figure out a backup plan on the offensive line.

Letroy Guion aggravated his sore knee in practice this past week, and though he should be ready for the opener, tenuous depth there may lock up rookie Trevor Guyton's roster spot.

It's unclear when linebacker Larry Dean (shoulder) will return, leaving the Vikings without four core special teamers if Sendejo, Frampton and Ryan D'Imperio (unknown) miss time, too.

Blanton, the fifth-round pick from Notre Dame, had drifted to the bubble's outer edge after missing the first three preseason games but now may be one of the three healthiest players at the safety position. 

That the secondary is even an issue goes to show how quickly depth can thin out, since that appeared to be the spot with the toughest decisions ahead until Friday's injuries hit.

If the Vikings want any reinforcements for Thursday in Houston, allowing starters to take the night off, they'd almost surely come from among Monday's cuts, since players who haven't been in a camp must wait three days to practice.

"I know Rick (Spielman) and myself and the staff will sit down (Saturday) and talk through our roster and what we need to do," coach Leslie Frazier said.

There still are 16 days until the Sept. 9 opener at Jacksonville -- plenty of time for minor injuries to heal up. The only probable Week 1 starters who didn't play on Friday were Raymond, Guion and Cook, and only Raymond's status is really up in the air.

There's no question the Vikings should be thrilled they've stayed this healthy for this long. But the bumps and bruises certainly could be a complicating factor as cuts come down twice next week.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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