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Updated: December 11th, 2013 4:49pm
Safety Harrison Smith expected to be activated from IR, play Sunday

Safety Harrison Smith expected to be activated from IR, play Sunday

by Derek Wetmore
1500ESPN.com
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - Harrison Smith knows he isn't coming back as a full-time starter. Not yet, at least.

More than eight weeks after a foot injury classified as turf toe shut him down, the Vikings' best safety is expected to be back on the field, ostensibly for the final three games of the season.

"I've been kind of in a gray area for a while, but I'm excited to get back out on the field," Smith said Wednesday at Winter Park. He has practiced with the team recently, but this weekend will be the first game for which he's eligible to be activated and play.

Smith, who hurt the foot in week 6 against Carolina, technically isn't eligible to be activated from the Injured Reserve until after Friday's practice. Leslie Frazier said he plans to start Jamarca Sanford and Andrew Sendejo and determine Smith's playing time based on practice this week.

He's been allowed to practice with the team because of a new rule this year, which allows teams to put a player on IR but designate him eligible to return. Players on that list can return to practice after six weeks and return to game action after eight weeks.

"He seems to be back. We're going to ramp it up as far as some of the things we're going to give him [Wednesday]," Frazier said. "Because the intensity level is a little bit different than, say, what he did last week when he was doing stuff on the scout team."

Smith said his foot is structurally sound but admitted: "It's obviously going to take a long time for it to get back to where it was."

The Vikings plan to have Smith on the field Sunday with the Eagles in town but Smith said he's not yet sure how many game reps he'll see.

"We haven't circled a number or anything, but I think the coaches are going to do a good job of not just killing me, throwing me out there and having me take all the reps," Smith said. "Especially with this kind of offense, the up-tempo [attack]."

With the Eagles' fast-paced offense, centered around LeSean McCoy and emergent quarterback Nick Foles, Sunday's defensive responsibility could be particularly challenging. Linebacker Chad Greenway said Philadelphia poses a "matchup nightmare" with McCoy. In that light, it's not the easiest game to bring back Smith.

Still, if Smith is able to get back on the field, it will be a bright spot for the Vikings in a season that has had scant few. Smith said it may have been possible to return to game action sooner if he hadn't been placed on IR, but said he doesn't know how many snaps he could have played since he would have had to rush back.

"The guys that have been playing - Jamarca [Sanford], Andrew [Sendejo], [Robert] Blanton at the nickel -- they've all been playing well, so it's not like they've got to put me in there. It's just going to be how I feel."

Smith added: "I've tried to work on my conditioning since I've been off, but there's nothing quite like when the lights come on."

Derek Wetmore is the senior editor for 1500ESPN.com. His previous stops include MLB.com and the Minnesota Daily.
Email Derek | @DerekWetmore
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