The Minnesota Vikings could have safety Mistral Raymond back in action this weekend, one step toward some depth in a secondary that's sure to be tested during the second half of the season.
"I'm healed and I'm available. To what extent and how much they want to use me, that's totally up to them," Raymond said. "I'm just going to go out and practice and try to make it feel as natural as possible and get back in the groove of things."
Raymond hurt his right ankle in the Sept. 23 game against San Francisco and hasn't played since because of what the team described as a bone bruise. The second-year player from South Florida has been practicing, however, and coach Leslie Frazier said Monday "it looks that way" when asked if Raymond would suit up for Sunday's game at Seattle.
"We need to get him through an entire week of practice," Frazier said. "We're going to give him a little bit more this week, and then we'll make a decision later in the week. All indications are he's improved enough where he can go through everything in practice, but he still hasn't done that."
Jamarca Sanford took over Raymond's starting spot, and he's likely to keep that for now while Raymond is brought back up to speed. But cornerback Chris Cook is out with a broken right arm, so the Vikings can use all the healthy bodies they can find.
Frazier said Cook's surgery went as expected. He is still forecast to need six to eight weeks to recover. Cook was placed on injured reserve with a designation to return, so if he heals quickly he could play in the regular season finale against Green Bay on Dec. 30. His roster spot is still open.
"That's tough. Guy's been working hard. It's unfortunate what happened to him," fellow cornerback Antoine Winfield said. "But it's a rough game."
Rookie Josh Robinson will probably replace Cook in the base defense, with A.J. Jefferson taking the nickel back role. Jefferson, acquired in September from Arizona, has a similar skill set to Cook's physical, pressing coverage style even if he went undrafted two years ago while Cook was taken early in the second round.
"I want to be at the line anyway. I'm bigger than a lot of other corners that are here, so I'd much rather get my hands on them," Jefferson said. "That's why I figured they had me as his backup, because I'm kind of similar to him."
Marcus Sherels and Brandon Burton are the other cornerbacks on the roster.
"Chris was really coming along. He was playing good football for us, but in this business we all know injuries occur and I think our depth is better than it has been in years past," Frazier said. "I think we'll be able to hold up better than we have in the past."
After the last three weeks, getting the run defense to hold up appears to be more important than replacing Cook in pass coverage. Missed tackles have been a problem. Guys have gotten out of their gaps, too.
The Vikings have allowed three straight 100-yard rushers: Washington's Robert Griffin III, Arizona's LaRod Stephens-Howling and Tampa Bay's Doug Martin. That's a quarterback, a no-name and a rookie. Seattle's Marshawn Lynch, their next opponent, is second in the NFL behind Adrian Peterson with 757 yards rushing.
"I'm concerned," Frazier said, adding: "In my mind, he's one of the best in our business so we better get our run game fixed in a hurry."
Frazier has tried to make sure the hangover from last Thursday's 36-17 loss to Tampa Bay won't linger. With five of their last eight games on the road, only division foes left for home games and a combined remaining opponent record of 38-22, the Vikings need all the positive vibes they can get.
"Having this weekend to kind of get away from things probably helped," Frazier said. "This is a break point for us, and we have to approach it the right way. This first game is like coming out of a half, and that's what I've talked to our team about. You want to start off the second half of the ball game the right way."
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