EAGAN, Minn. — On Thursday morning, safety Jayron Kearse was watching practice in Eagan from the sidelines and cornerback Mackensie Alexander was on an operating table in Florida.
Such is the state of the Vikings’ banged-up secondary.
The Vikings listed Kearse (toe, knee) as doubtful and Alexander (knee) as out for Saturday’s divisional playoff game at San Francisco. There were no doubt that Alexander would be out, and on Thursday he had surgery at the Andrews Institute in Gulf Breeze, Fla., to repair a torn right meniscus.
The Vikings entered last Sunday’s wild-card playoff game at New Orleans without Alexander and Mike Hughes, who was placed on injured reserve with a neck injury. Without their top two cornernickel backs, safety Andrew Sendejo played the position for what he said was the first time and was effective in the Vikings’ 26-20 overtime victory.
Kearse can play the nickel in addition to providing depth at safety. Despite not practicing all week, he held out hope Thursday of playing against the 49ers.
“There’s always a chance,” he said. “Just going to keep getting treatment and see how it feels.”
Kearse said he aggravated a toe injury in New Orleans. He said he suffered his right knee injury in that game, as well, but did not give details.
Kearse didn’t play any defensive snaps against the Saints and was limited by injury to just 10 plays on special teams. He is one of the team’s top special teams players.
It’s possible Minnesota could sign a defensive back off the practice squad to provide depth. Creating a roster spot could depend on the medical report the Vikings get on Alexander, who held out hope before the surgery of a return later in the playoffs if the Vikings win Saturday. Alexander wrote on Twitter his “surgery was a success.”
As for Saturday’s game, safety Anthony Harris said he was confident the Vikings would be fine in the secondary.
“Just continue to move forward, always prepare your entire team, making sure they’re all on top of their game, and that’s what we try to do here,” Harris said.
The Vikings also listed wide receiver Adam Thielen (ankle) as questionable. The 49ers listed defensive linemen Dee Ford (quadriceps/hamstring) and Kentavius Street (knee) as questionable.
Vikings receiver Laquon Treadwell isn’t dwelling on being inactive last Sunday for the first time this season.
With Treadwell inactive against the Saints, it meant undrafted rookie Alexander Hollins moved ahead of him as the No. 4 receiver. Hollins was in for one play, and couldn’t hold onto a long pass by Kirk Cousins.
“It’s not for me to speak on,” Treadwell said of being benched. “It’s their call. I prepare the same way every week. I’ve just got to continue to do that.”
Against the Saints, Treadwell said he did what he could to help.
“I was on the sideline cheering my guys and making sure they’re in the right mind-set,” he said. “Whether I’m on the field or off the field, I’m going to help this team.”
After three years with the Vikings, Treadwell was waived at the end of the preseason. He was re-signed after the third regular-season game, and played in the final 13, catching nine passes for 184 yards.
The Vikings hope their experiences from the 2017 playoffs can help in this postseason.
Two years ago, the Vikings beat New Orleans 29-24 in a divisional round on Stefon Diggs’ dramatic 61-yard touchdown reception on the final play before they flopped in a 38-7 loss at Philadelphia in the NFC Championship Game. Because of that experience, Minnesota cut short celebration time after another walk-off win against the Saints.
“The veterans in this locker room have been through it,” Thielen said. “We know how we had to change our mind-set, how we couldn’t just be happy-go-lucky and things like that in practice. We had to lock in and focus.”
Thielen said there were “definitely lessons” from 2017 that can be applied to 2019. Head coach Mike Zimmer agreed.
“I do feel like us being in the NFC Championship Game two years ago, we can draw on some things through the course of that process,” Zimmer said. “One thing is the number of media that’s going to be out on the field before the game.”