Safety Harrison Smith won't be able to clear the concussion protocol before the Vikings' kickoff against the Lions on Sunday, and he has been ruled out.
Smith, the 33-year-old former All-Pro selection, did not practice this week after suffering the concussion on Monday night against the Eagles. He will miss his first game to injury since 2016. Smith sat out only three games in that span: two due to COVID-19 protocols and one to rest. Head coach Kevin O'Connell declined to name Smith's replacement in the lineup.
Either Josh Metellus or Lewis Cine, the first-round pick who made his NFL debut last week, will start for Smith. Cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. (quad) has also been ruled out. Linebacker Eric Kendricks was added to the injury report Friday with a toe issue; he's listed as questionable vs. the Lions.
"When Josh has gotten a chance to get in there, he's really done some good things," O'Connell said. "He's been really, really good on special teams. Playing aggressive, flying around, which will only bode well for our defense adding that in to our group."
Metellus replaced Smith in the fourth quarter against the Eagles, indicating the special teamer could get his first NFL start instead of Cine, the 32nd overall pick who is recovered from a knee contusion that affected him for three weeks.
"All rookies are fighting to catch up, I don't care what's going on," defensive coordinator Ed Donatell said. "When you miss time, that compounds it."
"It can be done," he added. "We have good teachers around him, but we can never rest because there's so much work to be done. This league presents so many challenges that are different every week. Unless you have experience, you can't relate, and you can't click into those modes as easily when you're a young player."
Cine mostly played on special teams in Philadelphia, with only one snap on defense as the seventh defensive back on a long third down. The 22-year-old safety said he's adapting to the weekly routine of the regular season and talking to teammates about how to craft his own study and recovery habits. He's also practicing patience as coaches bring him along slowly.
"I definitely understand that perspective," Cine said. "I'm just going to control what I can about how I practice, my mind-set going into things and how I talk to myself. Because sometimes stuff like this can be kind of frustrating."
Lions down two guards; Hutchinson in?
Lions rookie defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, the No. 2 overall pick who had three sacks last week, returned to practice Friday and "ought to be OK" for Sunday, head coach Dan Campbell told Detroit reporters. Hutchinson is officially listed questionable because of a thigh injury.
Running back D'Andre Swift (ankle), tight end T.J. Hockenson (hip) and center Frank Ragnow (foot) are also listed as questionable. Left guard Jonah Jackson (finger) and defensive lineman John Cominsky (wrist) have been ruled out. Detroit will be without both starting guards in Jackson and Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who is on injured reserve. Lions coaches are hoping a reshuffled line can stay in sync under the crowd noise at U.S. Bank Stadium.
"If we can handle that offensively, I feel good about us being efficient," Campbell said. "There are other factors that play into it, but I think the most critical is our communication."
Badges of pride
A smattering of lockers at TCO Performance Center in Eagan – like those of fullback C.J. Ham and running back Kene Nwangwu – have display cards that read "Vikings Special Teamer," below a paragraph about teamwork. Special teams coordinator Matt Daniels said those badges of pride are about getting young players to buy into the kick and kick coverage phases that have fared well for the Vikings through two games.
"Let's be honest, it's the red-headed stepchild," Daniels said. "We're in an all-star league where all-stars don't really want to play special teams, right? Because it's the dirty work or that's not where you get in the limelight to shine. I try to make it so that we're just kind of talking about the chemistry."
- Former Vikings coach Bud Grant will narrate a pregame video, former defensive tackle Esera Tuaolo will sing the national anthem, and former players including Sammy White and Jeff Wright will sign autographs on the Medtronic Plaza as part of the team's "Legends Weekend" on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
- Angels All-Star center fielder Mike Trout watched Friday's Vikings practice inside the field house. The Angels are in town for a three-game series against the Twins.