EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The waiting game for Madieu Williams is almost over.
Williams signed a six-year deal in the offseason that could be worth as much as $33 million, including $12 million in guaranteed money. The offer lured him away from Cincinnati and made him one of the richest safeties in the league.
But he developed a nerve problem in his neck early in training camp and has yet to play a down in purple.
The Vikings eagerly await the addition of a veteran and one of the prizes of their free-agent class to their defensive backfield.
"We have been hoping and looking forward to the day that we can get him on the field and it looks like we are real close to seeing that accomplished now that the doctors have given him clearance coming off that bye," defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said Thursday.
The team still isn't sure what they'll get from Williams after such a long layoff. Frazier wasn't ready to say if Williams will start or if they will keep rookie Tyrell Johnson with the first unit.
Neck injuries are one of the most sensitive ailments for a football player. While Frazier was quick to point out that Williams is showing no ill effects in practice, the team will watch closely to see how he reacts in a game.
According to the injury report, he was limited in practice on Thursday, as were receiver Sidney Rice (knee), defensive end Ray Edwards (knee) and tight end Garrett Mills (ankle). Middle linebacker David Herron (hip) did not practice.
Frazier said Williams is doing fine physically.
"Now it is just a matter of once the emotions of the game transpire how he would handle some of those things from a mental standpoint," Frazier said. "We will only find that out on game day."
For his part, Williams has been itching for his day to come. Even though Frazier called the injury "scary," Williams said he never doubted he would return to the field.
"The truth of the matter is I was walking, so I didn't think it was career-threatening to any degree," Williams said. "I knew that I'd be able to play. I just didn't know how long I'd be out."
How quickly Williams can jell with his defensive teammates remains to be seen.
"We never actually played live bullets with Madieu back there, so it's going to be interesting to see," defensive tackle Kevin Williams said. "I know he's going to do great. He's a great cover guy and he comes up and hits. He wouldn't have a bad neck if he wasn't coming up and hitting somebody."
Madieu Williams insists he is 100 percent healthy and is raring to go. He's not quite sure what his role will be. The more he can play on defense, the more the Vikings can use Johnson to bolster their struggling special teams.
Through it all, Williams said he never got frustrated.
"I think more disappointing than frustrating," he said. "It's just parts of life. Things happen over the course of a lifetime that you're not prepared for. You've just got to pick up everything where it is and just move on."