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Signings Part of Vikings Preparations for Thursday Night Football

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Monday has traditionally been the night when fans are asked if they're ready for some football.

The Vikings and Cardinals, however, have Thursday in mind.

Minnesota (8-4) will visit Arizona (10-2) for a 7:25 p.m. (CT) game between two teams battling for position in the NFC Playoffs.

The stakes are clearly high, but so are potential shortages of players.

The Vikings had eight players on the injury report Monday, including five who have not participated in either practice. The Cardinals have 12 players listed on their injury report.

Every NFL team has at least one Thursday game on its schedule (Pittsburgh and New England played in the season-opener and each had another Thursday game; Detroit and Green Bay each played consecutive Thursdays).

The Vikings opted not to wear helmets Monday but donned them for Tuesday's practice. None of the four safeties who were on the roster Monday (Harrison Smith, Andrew Sendejo, Antone Exum, Jr. and Robert Blanton) were able to participate, which led to multiple roster moves.

Exum (rib/shoulder) was placed on season-ending injured reserve, and the Vikings signed free agent Shaun Prater, bringing back the DB who first joined Minnesota in 2013. Prater played eight games in 2013 and 10 in 2014. He spent the offseason with the Vikings but was waived during final roster reductions before the season.

The Vikings also signed rookie safety Anthony Harris from their practice squad. A shoulder injury Harris suffered in college may have led to him not being drafted, but he was on the Vikings radar last spring. He joined the Vikings as a free agent and has been in Minnesota since May when he began the rookie program. He participated in preseason games and has been an understudy since the season started.

"I've just tried to stay ready, tried to sharpen my skills, get better," Harris said. "I enjoy going out there and competing and doing the different techniques that we're learning. It's an opportunity for me to apply it on defense or special teams."

The subject of Thursday football was a talker Tuesday.

Cardinals receiver and Minneapolis native Larry Fitzgerald wasn't shy about his opinion of Thursday games during a conference call with Twin Cities media.

"I hate Thursday Night Football. I'll be blunt with you. It's no fun," said Fitzgerald, who just made his 1,000th career reception last week. "You don't get the time to heal your body. I probably would say there's two guys on each team who, if we were playing on Sunday, they would probably be able to go.

"You just don't get the time to recover from the injuries you sustained the week before, and it's just tough," Fitzgerald added. "Especially for the Vikings to have them travel on a short week, it's even tougher on the teams that have to travel."

Arizona Head Coach Bruce Arians said during a conference call that he's "never been for" Thursday games.

"I think it's too taxing on the players to actually have to show up for practice less than 24 hours after they just played a game and there's nothing you can do other than walk-through," Arians said. "The statistics injury-wise say they don't get guys hurt, but I know this, there's more guys that would be able to play on Sunday that can't play on Thursday. It is what it is. It's not going anywhere, so we all have to embrace it and learn how to coach and play and put on a good show."

That's kind of the same approach that Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer and Vikings players are taking this week.

Asked if there's anything he wished the league would consider about changing the schedule, Zimmer said, "No, I'm just a soldier. If it was up to me, I'd do them Friday's, but it is what it is. Everybody has to do it and honestly, I was in Dallas for 13 years, so I had 13 Thursday games, so I think I've had a Thursday game probably almost every year I've coached."

Zimmer said each team goes about things differently with the condensed week.

"You're trying to get the recovery of the players back, you're trying to get the game plan done," Zimmer said. "Sometimes guys will game plan the week before, which can confuse things during that week. Obviously the travel, you go out there on Wednesday, which is unusual. Really the schedule changes quite a bit for the players."

Running back Adrian Peterson said, "It is what it is. Every team has to do it, so it's one you just look at and swallow what it is and get it done."

Cornerback Xavier Rhodes said players have to "give it your all" on a short week.

"Whatever your body percentage is or how you feel that week, if you're not injured to the point you can't play, you've got to play anyways," Rhodes said. "It's all about mentally how you feel."

Linebacker Chad Greenway bluntly said, "My take is it's the next game on the schedule. Everybody does it. It's just the next one."

View photos of the addition to the Vikings 53-man roster, S Anthony Harris.

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