Posted on Tue, Oct. 03, 2006

[size=13pt]Injury list gets longer for Vikings[/size]

Team unsure if Sharper will play against Lions

Pioneer Press

The Vikings played without one defensive starter in Sunday's 17-12 loss at Buffalo and might be without another this week.

Pro Bowl safety Darren Sharper had to be replaced by rookie Greg Blue for the fourth quarter after Sharper suffered a left quadriceps contusion and his status for this week's game against Detroit is uncertain.

Coach Brad Childress said Monday that Sharper left Ralph Wilson Stadium on crutches but was much improved after overnight treatment.

"It's coming along," Childress said. "It's still uncomfortable, but he's made some progress on that."

Childress wouldn't speculate on Sharper's chances of playing against the Lions but did say, "I just was encouraged that he was much improved from where he was on that airplane last night."

Childress also said it was too early to say whether starting strong-side linebacker Ben Leber, who was inactive at Buffalo because of a sprained left knee, would return this week.

"I don't know about Ben yet," Childress said. "Obviously, we didn't feel like he had all his faculties when he worked out before the game. He has to be in a position where he can push off and he can protect himself. If you listen to Ben, Ben would have had himself up for that game, but it's a long season. I think he has to make sure he has all of his faculties."

Dontarrious Thomas started in Leber's place against the Bills, and Childress said, "He did fine in the snaps that he had."

Running on empty: Sunday was another long day for the Vikings' running game, which produced only 63 yards on 16 carries, and Childress didn't try to sugarcoat the issue.

"I'd say this: When Chester Taylor has six carries for 6 yards at halftime, that's not a good thing," he said. "At different times, it's been better than others, but I didn't really feel like offensively, obviously, we established a rhythm at all yesterday, run or pass."

Childress said the problem goes beyond the offensive line and that he isn't thinking about replacing struggling right tackle Marcus Johnson with veteran Mike Rosenthal.

"I don't have any plans along those lines right now," Childress said. "I know this: He's trying to do everything in his power. Every technique that we're giving him, he's trying to play. So I will not fault his effort. At times, it may be his fault. At times, maybe it's a back, maybe it's a tight end helping... . I'm not going to single his line play out as being something that's the downfall of our offense. We all have culpability, I think."

Blown away: Chris Kluwe wasn't trying to make excuses, but he said the wind obviously was responsible for his 9-yard punt Sunday.

"It felt like my drop and my motion felt good," he said. "When it left my hand, the nose just, boom! The wind took it straight down. Sometimes you can do everything right, but the elements decide to take a factor."

Kluwe said it was the second-worst wind he has kicked in, behind the Las Vegas Bowl during his senior year at UCLA.

His 39.5-yard average is 4.6 less than last season's mark, but Kluwe said it has nothing to do with his late-January knee surgery and that his leg is fine.

"It feels like everything is there," he said. "I'm trying to get rid of that one bad punt per game. It's that one bad punt per game that's killing me."

Team effort: The offense was the biggest culprit in Sunday's loss, but it wasn't a great day for the defense, either.

"We didn't have much spark to start the second half, coming out of the locker room," Childress said. "We couldn't get a stop. We did manage a stop at the end of the game to give us a chance to come back, but it shouldn't have had to come down to that. We need to play better."

Briefly: As of Monday afternoon, 1,200 tickets remained for the Lions game.