Sep 8, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson (81) is unable to complete a pass while being guarded by Minnesota Vikings free safety Harrison Smith (22) during the first quarter at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Harrison Smith has been targeting December 15 as his return date all along, and it looks like that will come true. But Leslie Frazier is still being a little bit cautious with his star safety. Frazier says Smith will play this Sunday if all goes well in practice the rest of the week, but likely won’t start.
Andrew Sendejo, aka PFF’s top safety of the weekend, and Jamarca Sanford will be your starters with Smith getting worked into the rotation somewhere, according to Frazier.
Smith has been out since suffering severe pain related to a turf toe injury week 6 against Carolina. Season-ending surgery was discussed for awhile but Smith elected to rehab instead and was placed on IR-to-return. He went back to practice a couple weeks ago and has been steadily building toward his return to the field.
Without Smith, the Vikings have been forced to mix-and-match at the safety position. Mistral Raymond was initially tabbed as Smith’s replacement but he performed miserably and was himself replaced by Andrew Sendejo.
Sendejo, a scrappy special teams performer, showed only occasional flashes before last weekend’s breakout game against the Ravens. Sendejo had an interception and two passes defensed, mostly lined up against tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson. He did however give up a touchdown late in the game.
Smith has no doubt been missed this season, but in all honesty, I don’t know that the Vikings’ record would have been a lot better with him in there. He is certainly a vital defensive piece going into the future however. He was on his way to becoming a Pro Bowl-caliber performer before turf toe derailed his season.