EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Vikings safety Harrison Smith missed Wednesday's practice with an ankle injury, and his status for Sunday's game in Jacksonville is in question.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer spoke to the Twin Cities media Wednesday and said he wasn't about to rule out Smith against the Jaguars, much less for the rest of the season when asked about a report on the safety's status.
"I know Harrison Smith is a pretty tough guy, and he plays all the time," Zimmer said. "When he's hurt, he plays. He always plays, so I don't care about reports.
"I just go by what happens in practice," he added.
Smith, who made his first Pro Bowl in 2015, has been hampered by an ankle injury for the past few weeks.
If the 2012 first-round draft pick misses any game action, his replacement would have large shoes to fill. Smith leads the Vikings with 97 total tackles (coaches' tally), 20 more than his closest teammate, linebacker Eric Kendricks.
Safeties Jayron Kearse and Anthony Harris would be candidates to fill in for Smith.
"Harrison is a great player," Kearse said. "It's always going to be a big thing when you lose a guy like that.
"Us young guys, me and Anthony Harris, whoever gets the nod, we have to go out there and perform," he added. "There can't be a drop off."
Kearse, a 2016 seventh-round pick who made his first career start in Chicago in Week 8, has seven total tackles this season.
"I definitely think this would be an opportunity to go out there and make it better than my last start," Kearse said. "I'm just taking it as it comes."
Harris has five total tackles this season and made two starts during the 2015 season.
Kearse said the pair have a healthy respect for one another as they've fought for playing time since the spring.
"I definitely embrace the competition … it makes you a better player," Kearse said. "Me and Anthony have been going through that since OTAs and training camp, (just) battling and making each other better.
"We have a competition but we both want to make each other great and push each other," he added. "Whoever gets the nod is going to go out there and play good football."
Turning 3 into 6
Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford has a theory for why Minnesota's ranks 26th in the NFL with an average 19.4 points per game.
In a league where points are a premium, the Vikings have 26 offensive touchdowns compared to 18 field goals.
Get a few of those three-pointers into the end zone, Bradford said, and the Vikings record might look a bit better than 6-6.
The quarterback felt Thursday's 17-15 loss against Dallas was a prime example.
Minnesota was just 1-of-3 in the red zone, and now ranks 28th in the league with a red zone conversion rate of 45.7 percent.
"I think if you just look at it, it was a lot of penalties, self-inflicted wounds, things we did to stop ourselves," Bradford said of Thursday's loss. "We've just got to find a way to eliminate those plays.
"I felt like there were times where we moved the ball well," he added. "We just couldn't finish drives, and I think when we get past the 50-[yard line], when we get down in the red zone, we've got to find a way to come away with touchdowns and not field goals."
View photos of Pro Bowl candidate Xavier Rhodes from the 2016 season so far, and make sure to visit vikings.com/probowl to vote.
Rhodes not thinking about résumé
Xavier Rhodes leads the Vikings and is tied for fourth in the NFL with four interceptions this season, including his first interception return for a touchdown (100 yards against Arizona).
He's garnering attention for the Pro Bowl and could add to his resume in the final four games of the season, starting Sunday against Blake Bortles, who leads the NFL with 15 interceptions this season. Rhodes, however, isn't counting on it.
"Anything can happen in this league," Rhodes said. "We've just got to go out and play ball. You can't go out there thinking that way or it will be something else.
"He makes throws," Rhodes added. "I know he's thrown a lot of interceptions, but he makes throws, too, that are good for his receivers to catch the ball."
Eleven of Bortles' 50 career interceptions have been returned for touchdowns. The native of Oviedo, Florida, was complimentary of what he's seen from Rhodes.
"I think he's an extremely good player. He's bigger, he's a rangy corner, and he runs extremely well. He's going to be tough," Bortles said. "He's an unbelievable athlete that has now been in the NFL a couple of years and played some good ball, so he's going to be a challenge. I think it will be cool for us, back-to-back weeks going up against some good corners, so I'm excited for Allen (Hurns) and Marqise (Lee) and these guys to play against Xavier, [Terence] Newman and some more good corners."
The Jaguars lost to the defending Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos last week.
The first injury reports of the week have been published, and a total of 24 players were listed.
For the Vikings: Smith (ankle) and Sharrif Floyd (knee) did not participate. Edmond Robinson (hamstring), Everson Griffen (hip), Tom Johnson (toe), Joe Berger (concussion) and Marcus Sherels (rib) were limited. Stefon Diggs (knee) and Captain Munnerlyn (ankle) fully participated.
For the Jaguars: WR Allen Hurns (hamstring), C Brandon Linder (ankle), DE Jared Odrick (shoulder), RB Denard Robinson (ankle), TE Julius Thomas (back) and DB Peyton Thompson (ankle) did not participate. T Kelvin Beachum (knee), RB Chris Ivory (hamstring) and LB Dan Skuta (elbow) were limited. QB Blake Bortles (right shoulder), OL Luke Bowanko (hip), DE Dante Fowler, Jr. (shoulder), DE Yannick Ngakoue (ankle), TE Neal Sterling (hip) and RB T.J. Yeldon (ankle) fully participated.