View images from the Wednesday, December 16 practice at Winter Park.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Vikings safety Harrison Smith practiced Wednesday on a limited basis, but a step forward in his attempt to return to the lineup.
Smith was inactive at Arizona last week after suffering a hamstring injury against Seattle on Dec. 6 but was requested by Chicago media this week to be the opposing player conference call. He told reporters he hasn't enjoyed being a spectator for more than two games (also inactive at Atlanta because of a knee injury). Smith's hamstring injury against the Seahawks occurred in the first quarter.
"It's frustrating not being out there with your guys," Smith said. "You put in work all year and all season, getting ready and when you can't get out there, there are so few opportunities to play, so it's frustrating, but you want to be there to help your guys out and encourage them."
In advance of the Vikings (8-5) hosting the Bears (5-8) and seeking their first sweep in the series since 2007, Smith provided a scouting report on the top offensive threats on Chicago's offense, starting with receiver Alshon Jeffery, a go-to guy for Jay Cutler with team highs of 797 yards and 53 catches.
"He's a big target, he's a physical receiver. When he's covered, he can still make the play on the ball just because he's so physical," Smith said. "I don't want to say he pushes off illegally, but he's good at pushing off and creating separation in an appropriate way I guess, so he's just good at getting that separation, and you can tell Cutler has a lot of faith in him.
When asked a follow-up about the physicality, Smith said, "I think the game should be physical. That's how the game was meant to be played. It's kind of gotten less and less. That's his game, and he's good at it."
Xavier Rhodes is the Vikings biggest cornerback and has had matchups with physical receivers like Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones and Jeffery when the Vikings visited the Bears.
"As you know, and as we've known for many years, he's a physical guy," Rhodes said of Jeffery. "We've just got to play tough on him, take advantage of his opportunities."
Playing keep-away:Smith has 11 career interceptions, including three of Cutler, one in each season since Smith was drafted in 2012.
Cutler, however, has thrown only seven interceptions this season, a year removed from leading the NFL with 18. Cutler's passer rating of 92.2 has him on track to set a career high.
"Ever since I've been in the league, he's always made plays," Smith said. "I think the number one thing is he hasn't been throwing a lot of interceptions and that's kind of reflected how well he's played. He's always going to get touchdowns and throw for yards but limiting those turnovers has been really big."
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said Cutler is "taking good care of the ball."
"I think they're doing a good job with their scheme, as far as him knowing where to go with the football," Zimmer said. "Obviously he's got confidence in Jeffery, and I see him making a lot of good decisions as opposed to in the past, maybe he didn't make quite as good of ones."
Short memory: Rookie Stefon Diggs' race to the end zone on a 40-yard, catch-and-run touchdown on a pass from Teddy Bridgewater tied the game in his first trip to Soldier Field. Diggs, however, needed his memory jogged Wednesday.
"I don't really have memories of the past," Diggs said. "It's my second time playing Chicago, but it's all about new memories."
Bridgewater, who delivered critical plays during the 10-point rally by the Vikings, said he's looking forward to a playoff atmosphere in the final weeks of the season.
Objective for opponents' opinions:Zimmer was asked if he thinks his team is playing smart football right now and said "not always."
"What I've always said is I want whoever we're playing that week to say, 'They're a well-coached football team that plays really hard, they don't beat themselves, and when we go play them this day we're going to have to play really, really good to beat them.' " That's really what I try to get this team to be like," Zimmer said. "Sometimes we're like that and sometimes we make mistakes like every team does, but I think overall we typically play that way."
Injury reports: For the Vikings, In addition to Smith, Brandon Watts (rib) and Andrew Sendejo (knee) were also limited. Robert Blanton (knee) participated fully. Linval Joseph (foot), Anthony Barr (groin/hand), Everson Griffen (shoulder) and Scott Crichton (concussion/neck) did not participate.
For the Bears: CB Bryce Callahan (quadriceps), CB Sherrick McManis (concussion) and TE Zach Miller (illness) did not participate. WR Alshon Jeffery (calf), LB Pernell McPhee (knee), CB Tracy Porter (ankle) and DL Will Sutton (knee) were limited.