Oct 13, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Medical personnel tend to Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith (22) during an injury timeout in the third quarter of the game with the Carolina Panthers at Mall of America Field at H.H.H. Metrodome. Panthers win 35-10. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Harrison Smith Targets Philadelphia Game For Return Date

Harrison Smith has been sorely missed by the Vikings defense ever since the safety went down with a bad case of turf toe and was placed on IR-to-return. Well good news everybody: Smith is getting closer to returning.

Smith says he will get back to practice next Wednesday with the intention of returning to the line up for the December 15 game against Philadelphia. December 15 is the earliest Smith may come back according to NFL rules governing the IR-to-return designation.

Smith spoke about his rehab process, indicating that he is a little out of shape but is working on his cardio. “Everything is pointing up,” Smith said.

2013 was looking to be a breakout year for Smith after a solid rookie season, but that breakout was derailed in the Carolina game when he was forced to leave due to pain in his foot from turf toe. It was initially feared that Smith would require season-ending surgery but ultimately the rehab route was chosen and Smith was placed on IR with a designation to return.

Since Smith’s departure, the Vikings defense has only gone downhill. Mistral Raymond and Robert Blanton struggled to fill in for Smith at safety, and now Andrew Sendejo has been getting the snaps alongside Jamarca Sanford (who has himself been injured quite a bit this season).

The loss of Smith didn’t just remove the Vikings’ best playmaker from the field, it also threw Alan Williams’ defensive plans into total disarray. Smith’s versatility gave Williams the flexibility to run all sorts of different looks, but with Smith going out Williams was forced to default back to a more vanilla scheme.

Williams will certainly be happy to have Smith back, even if Harrison is initially limited in what he can do. Clearly Smith won’t be back to full strength until 2014 but that hardly matters with the Vikings’ season already in the crapper.

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