The Vikings’ defense will play its regular season finale without one of its top guys. Safety Harrison Smith will not suit up in Chicago against the Bears because of knee soreness.
Minnesota has already clinched the NFC North and a subsequent playoff spot, so his absence in Week 18 is not too big of a blow. However, the postseason is just one week away, and the Vikings need Smith back to have realistic chances at a playoff run.
His replacement is Josh Metellus, who popped up on the Vikings injury report on Wednesday with a limited designation because of a thigh injury. He returned to practice on Thursday. The 2020 sixth-round pick started two games in place of Smith in 2022. Strangely, both games were against the Lions.
Vikings Rule Out Star Defender
Metellus looked great in both games, recording a total of 20 tackles and picking off Jared Goff to seal the win in Week 3. He is also a special teams demon, blocking punts in back-to-back games.
Smith is an 11-year veteran and has been a leader of the defense for almost his entire tenure. He is also the active player with the most interceptions, with 34. He’ll turn 34 years old next month. It’s fair to assume that Smith is entering his final years as a Viking and football player. He is under contract for three more seasons with whopping cap hits.
The Vikings planned for the future by drafting Lewis Cine in the first round. He was supposed to play next to Smith for a couple of years and then replace him as the star in the secondary. Of course, that hasn’t happened so far.
At first, Cine needed some time to get used to the professional game, and then he broke his leg in London three months ago.
Camryn Bynum is playing the free safety spot as a deep safety next to Smith. He defended his starting spot against the first-rounder in training camp. For the future, the Vikings have some decisions coming up. As previously mentioned, Smith will turn 34 in a few weeks, while Cine is 23, Bynum 24, and Metellus will turn 25 in two weeks. In collaboration with the coaching staff, the front office has to decide which two players should formulate the safety duo of the future.
The fact that the game in Week 18 will be meaningless if the 49ers take care of business at home as 14-point favorites against the Cardinals probably played into the decision not to play Smith in Chicago. His availability in next week’s wild-card round is crucial to the Vikings chances of reaching the divisional round. Reports suggest that Smith is expected to be available in for that game.
Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt