Winter Park was a revolving door of good news and bad news Thursday.
The Minnesota Vikings had two key players return to the practice field on the offensive side of the ball and one on the defensive side, but they also limited one offensive star with a new injury and were missing another solid contributor on the defensive side of the ball.
Running back Adrian Peterson returned to practice on a limited basis after taking Wednesday off because of an ankle injury that occurred early in the Vikings’ 30-7 win over the Tennessee Titans.
“I got it twisted. I don’t know if you guys seen it, but I got it twisted pretty bad,” Peterson said. “Just going to try to get some rest on it, let it recover and try to get the strength back. I really didn’t experience much swelling, but I feel like I’m taking steps forward.”
Peterson said he doesn’t have any doubt he will play Sunday and head coach Leslie Frazier said he was “pretty sure” Peterson would play.
The news with receiver Jerome Simpson was also trending toward positive, as he made it back to the practice field on a limited basis after missing all of Wednesday’s practice with back and foot issues. However, Frazier was more guarded when asked about the possibility of Simpson playing Sunday against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field.
“Not so sure about Jerome. We need to get back-to-back days with him, see how he feels (Friday) after practice and talk with him again,” Frazier said.
“He still has some weakness – some – so we’ll see how much better he is tomorrow and then go from there. The fact that he was able to participate (Thursday) and go through some of practice, that was a good sign. We just need to see how he does (Friday) in practice.”
Defensive tackle Kevin Williams also returned to practice after missing Wednesday with illness.
While Peterson and Simpson were progressing, receiver Percy Harvin was limited because of tightness in his hamstring that cropped up during Thursday’s practice.
“He was a little sore today, so we just decided to back off as practice went on,” Frazier said.
Peterson and Harvin represent the team’s top rushing and receiving options, and both are in the NFL’s top-10 in their respective categories. Peterson is eighth with 420 yards on 96 carries while Harvin is second with 38 receptions for 407 yards.
Peterson said he experienced only a little swelling in the ankle and said it’s not as bad as other ankle injuries he has played through. However, Peterson hasn’t had a great deal of success against the Washington Redskins, the Vikings’ opponent on Sunday. In three games against them, he has rushed 27 times for 101 yards and two touchdowns, including his performance last year that was cut short when he tore his anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments Dec. 24 at FedEx Field.
Simpson returned after a magnetic resonance imaging test earlier this week showed a back issue that was causing numbness in his lower left leg Sunday morning. Simpson started the game but was limited to playing 35 percent of the offensive snaps and couldn’t push off like he wanted. He has played in only one full game since returning from a three-game suspension to start the season, but he had four catches for 59 yards against the Detroit Lions Sept. 30.
Defensive end Everson Griffen was excused from practice Thursday after the unexpected death of his mother Wednesday, who was in Eden Prairie while visiting Griffen. There is no timetable for his return.
Although he isn’t a starter, Griffen is tied for the team lead with three sacks and has been playing quite a bit in pass-rushing situations.
The Vikings enter every game saying they want to stop the run first. They are in for another big challenge, although against a lesser-known (for now) running back.
Rookie running back Alfred Morris has 491 yards rushing on 100 carries and four touchdowns. No other Redskins running back has more than seven carries.
“He’s a tough dude. You watch him run and you see all the yards, that’s one thing, but he’s tough,” Redskins receiver Santana Moss said. “He runs through you. He’ll run around you. He’s just one of those guys that anyway he can get it done, he gets it done. I tip my hat to him. He runs the ball harder than anybody I’ve been around and I’ve been around a lot of great running backs.”
Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, known for uncovering hidden talent at running back from his days with the Denver Broncos, said it took only one preseason game to know that Morris would be “special.”
Morris has rushed for 75 or more yards in each of his five games. If he does that against the Vikings, he will tie the NFL rookie record to start a season, currently held by Eric Dickerson.
Morris is being given 7/2 odds by Bovada.lv to win the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
In addition to the aforementioned Vikings injuries, S Mistral Raymond (ankle) continues to miss practice.
In addition to Peterson, Simpson and Harvin, other Vikings who were limited Thursday were G Charlie Johnson (back), LB Marvin Mitchell (calf), S Andrew Sendejo (ankle), CB Antoine Winfield (knee).
QB Christian Ponder (knee) has been a full participant at Wednesday and Thursday’s practices.
For the Redskins, S Brandon Meriweather is out and DE Doug Worthington (calf) didn't practice for the second straight day. CB Cedric Griffin (hamstring) and QB Robert Griffin III (head) were limited.
After starting the season with a 4-1 record, the Vikings are now down to 40/1 odds to win the Super Bowl, according to Bovada.lv. Last week, they were at 50/1 odds, and they started the season at 200/1.
Kyle Rudolph put the Vikings’ 4-1 start in perspective: “If you get too excited over a 4-1 start you’ll drop one and then you can’t ever get that back. For us, it’s extremely important for us to take each win individually.”
Shanahan on Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, whom he coached when Musgrave was a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos: “He’s very bright. Different adjustments each game, different formations. He knows how to run the ball; he knows how to throw the ball. More importantly, he knows how to win. (He) takes a look at the supporting cast and comes up with the best plan possible to put his players in the best possible position to win.”
The Vikings made a move on their practice squad, re-signing DE Ernest Owusu and releasing OL Tyler Holmes. The team made the opposite move last week, releasing Owusu and signing Holmes.
The Minnesota Vikings, Second Harvest Heartland and United Healthcare are teaming up once again to help tackle senior hunger in the Twin Cities. Punter Chris Kluwe and other players will join 180 employees of United from 2-3 p.m. Oct. 16 for a volunteer food-packing event at Second Harvest Heartland West. On Oct. 21, 150 volunteers from United Healthcare will participate in a Vikings Food & Fund Drive from 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. prior to the Vikings-Cardinals game at Mall of America Field, collecting nonperishable food items and donations for Second Harvest Heartland.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.