Vikes DT Williams finally practices, has sights set on opener

Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams has been hampered all preseason by pain in his left foot, and that doesn't figure to change anytime soon.

Williams returned to practice Monday, but he said he likely will have to deal with the injury -- plantar fasciitis -- all season.

"It's a situation where I don't think it's going to go away until maybe the offseason," Williams said. "We're just going to deal with it and try and grin and bear it."

Williams saw a specialist last week and didn't play in Saturday night's preseason loss to the Dallas Cowboys. He will almost assuredly sit out Thursday night's preseason finale against the Houston Texans to rest up for the Sept. 11 season opener at San Diego.

That is, of course, if Williams isn't suspended for the game stemming from a positive test for a banned stimulant three years ago. Williams lost a court battle with the NFL over the test, but he has yet to be notified if he will be eligible to play when the season begins.

Williams said he felt a little better while running around during a light practice Monday.

"I ran pretty good," Williams said. "It wasn't real physical. It was a lot of hand work and running. It wasn't too bad. I needed to run."

Given his versatility as both a pass rusher and run stopper, the former All-Pro tackle is critical to the Vikings' defense. Coach Leslie Frazier said he's "pretty optimistic" that Williams will be ready physically when the season starts.

"He moved around fairly well," Frazier said. "Much better than I anticipated."

Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe (hamstring), linebacker Jasper Brinkley (hip) and cornerbacks Asher Allen (toe), Chris Cook (hamstring) and Devon Torrence (quadriceps) also will not play against the Texans because of injuries.

Frazier said Brinkley was sent to a specialist to examine his hip flexor, and the team moved defensive end Everson Griffen to linebacker for some drills to try to address the lack of depth. Griffen is in his second year out of USC, and Frazier said the Vikings like his chances for making the transition to give them some much-needed flexibility.

"He's just a tremendous athlete with good football intelligence," Frazier said. "He has some playmaking abilities, so we want to utilize his athletic ability."

Notes: Frazier said on Monday that rookie quarterback Christian Ponder will start Thursday's game against Houston, with Joe Webb likely playing the second half as the two battle for the backup job behind starter Donovan McNabb, who will not play in the preseason finale. ... Former Vikings offensive lineman Bryant McKinnie announced Monday that he has decided to donate the furniture and appliances from his Eden Prairie home to a local charity. McKinnie was released early in training camp after reporting overweight, and was signed last week by the Baltimore Ravens.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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