December 15, 2015

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) The Minnesota Vikings could be without three key defensive starters again Sunday as they try to keep their playoff position.

Returning to practice following last Thursday's game, linebacker Anthony Barr, defensive tackle Linval Joseph and safety Harrison Smith were held out on Tuesday. The Vikings host Chicago on Sunday, one game behind Green Bay in the NFC North but with an outside chance at clinching a playoff spot with a victory.

Starting safety Andrew Sendejo (knee) and backup linebacker Brandon Watts (rib) returned to practice. But Minnesota was also without backup defensive end Scott Crichton, who ran on the side during Tuesday's practice.

Barr, Joseph, Sendejo, Smith and Watts missed last week's 23-20 loss at Arizona. Joseph (foot) has missed the past two games.

''The reason you have a football team, that you comprise a football team of two and three deep is because there's injuries,'' said Terence Newman, who shifted from his normal cornerback spot to safety in last week's game. ''There's 100 percent injury rate. So, the coaches do a good job of finding guys that are able to fit in to what they like to do; guys that, first off know what to do and know how to do it.''

Barr (groin/hand) and Smith (knee/hamstring) were held out last week after missing much of the previous week's game against Seattle. Smith did participate in the pre-practice stretch on Tuesday. Barr, Smith and Joseph are second, third and fourth, respectively, on the team in tackles.

Against Arizona's top-ranked offense, the Vikings had Newman playing out of position, undrafted rookie Anthony Harris playing every snap on defense in his first week after being elevated from the practice squad and first-round rookie Trae Waynes playing 61 of the 67 defensive snaps at cornerback.

Veteran defensive tackle Tom Johnson has helped fill in for Joseph, while rookie Edmond Robinson started for the first time and received his most extensive playing time on defense.

''I think guys grew a little bit of confidence, the guys who went out there and stepped up,'' Harris said. ''It's just all about believing in one another. I feel like guys definitely believed in us going out there. It brings a little more to it, I think.''

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