- Associated Press - Thursday, December 8, 2011

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson returned to practice Thursday on a limited basis, a big step toward healing from a sprained left ankle.

Quarterback Christian Ponder, however, didn’t practice as he nurses a right hip pointer that is jeopardizes his chance to play Sunday at Detroit.

Peterson has missed the past two games with his injury, but he made significant strides in cutting and planting on his foot without pain.

The Vikings gained a season-high 489 yards in last week’s loss to Denver without their best player, giving them confidence that the offense can finish the season strong.

Packers’ Woodson back at practice, eyes playing Sunday

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Cornerback Charles Woodson has returned to practice on a limited basis for the Green Bay Packers, another sign he’s making progress recovering from a concussion.

Woodson sufffered a concussion in Sunday’s victory over the Giants. Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Woodson’s limited participation Wednesday was part of the protocol a player must complete before returning to action. McCarthy says he expects Woodson to play Sunday against Oakland.

Broncos’ Miller practices, hopes to play vs. Bears

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller practiced Wednesday with a cast covering the injured right thumb that sidelined him a week ago.

Miller, who leads NFL rookies with 10.5 sacks, needed surgery to repair ligaments he tore in his right thumb during a game at San Diego on Nov. 27. He missed last week’s win over Minnesota but said he hopes to return Sunday, when the Broncos host Chicago.

• Broncos receiver Eddie Royal missed his second straight practice Thursday, still recovering from a concussion. Royal, who also missed practice time last week with a toe injury, collided with a teammate during a punt return late in Denver’s victory last Sunday.

Around the league

BUCCANEERS: Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman said his injured throwing shoulder is improving and that he hopes to play Sunday against Jacksonville. Freeman was injured on Tampa Bay’s final offensive play during a 23-17 loss at Tennessee two weeks ago. He sat out last Sunday’s 38-19 loss to Carolina, ending a streak of 36 starts.

BILLS: Buffalo kicker Rian Lindell’s season is over after the 12-year veteran was placed on injured reserve a month after breaking a bone in his right shoulder. Lindell missed four games and became the ninth Bills regular to be placed on IR. Journeyman Dave Rayner has taken over the kicking duties.

STEELERS: Pittsburgh put nose tackle Chris Hoke and running back Jonathan Dwyer on injured reserve. Hoke, 35, hasn’t played since injuring his neck against Jacksonville on Oct. 16. Dwyer will miss the rest of the season with a left foot injury.

CARDINALS: Arizona safety Kerry Rhodes said he’s “very, very close” to being ready to return to game action after missing six weeks with a broken bone in his left foot. Rhodes said the only real issue is getting into football shape.

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