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EAGAN, Minn. – The Vikings know full well they’re the underdogs heading into New Orleans.

In all honesty, that might be putting it lightly.

“I don’t think anybody believes that we can win this game, so we go in there and slug it out,” Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said on Monday. “All I really care about is that 53 guys believe.”

The Vikings are prepping for a Saints squad that is only the third 13-3 team to play in the Wild Card round since 1990, when the NFL expanded to a six-team field for each conference.

So, sure, the task is a tall one. But as Zimmer said after the Week 17 game, “Why not us?”

Minnesota has been considered the underdog before, but the team welcomes the challenge.

That oversight tangibly surfaced earlier this week, when the NFL released a postseason hype video that included 10 of the 12 playoff teams but omitted the Vikings and Eagles.

Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs was asked during his session with Twin Cities media members if he had any sort of reaction to the omission.

“I don’t make the videos. We don’t make the videos,” he answered. “We’ve got to play ball.”

Five-time Pro Bowler Harrison Smith has been with Vikings teams that have been underdogs and favorites. He doesn’t much mind the underdog.

“That’s how it is,” Smith said. “All that matters is what we believe, how we prepare in this building and how we go out and play. All that other stuff doesn’t really matter.”

Fellow safety Anthony Harris thought for a moment when asked if the Vikings “enjoy” being looked at as the weaker team.

“I think we like having the opportunity to play another week,” Harris said. “I think guys like the preparation and like competing.”

Quarterback Kirk Cousins doesn’t buy too much one way or another into Minnesota’s perceived chances at New Orleans.

He’s really only concerned about one thing.

“You understand that you’re seeded and you go play a game, but all that really matters is it’s one game. We’ve just got to go play in a tough environment,” Cousins said. “Whatever people need for motivation, so be it, but in the NFL Playoffs, I don’t probably need too much more motivation. You’ve got everything you need, just from the fact that you’re in the playoffs.”

In the playoffs or not, there doesn’t seem to be much confidence in the Vikings outside of the building. But Diggs pointed out that the Vikings locker room is full of “guys that have a lot to prove.”

“You can see the makeup of this team. We’ve got a lot of late-round guys,” Diggs said. “Even Dalvin Cook, I think Dalvin Cook should have been the first back off the board. We’ve got a lot of guys with a lot to prove that came in with that mindset.

“It’s a good spot to be in,” he added. “Some people don’t like it, but it’s a great spot. We’ve got a lot to prove, and we look forward to it.”

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Custom Andrew Sendejo Jersey Large

The Bears took advantage of the shorthanded Vikings to finish the 2019 season with a 21-19 win Sunday afternoon. Mitch Trubisky orchestrated a scoring drive inside the final two minutes to salvage the victory with Eddy Pineiro’s go-ahead field goal.

The Vikings, having already clinched the No. 6 seed in the NFC, benched many of their key players ahead of the game. Instead of Kirk Cousins and Dalvin Cook, the Bears’ defense had to stop Sean Mannion and Mike Boone.

Mannion struggled throughout the game, but Boone blew up with 17 carries for 148 yards and a touchdown. It’s the most rushing yards by a player against the Bears’ defense since Green Bay’s Ty Montgomery ran for 162 in 2016.

The Bears wrap up the 2019 season with an 8-8 record.

Final score: Bears 21, Vikings 19
Bears 21, Vikings 19: With 12 seconds to go, Eddy Pineiro hits the go-ahead field goal. He’s 4-of-4 in the game.

Vikings 19, Bears 18: The Vikings just ran out of timeouts and the Bears should have a chance to take the clock inside 20 seconds before setting up a field goal attempt.

Vikings 19, Bears 18: Trying to milk the clock, Mitch Trubisky hits Allen Robinson for a 3-yard gain on third-and-2 to keep the offense on the field. Big play.

Vikings 19, Bears 18: Mitch Trubisky delivers! The QB finds a streaking Riley Ridley on the right side for a 34-yard gain before the receiver gets tripped up. The Bears will have first down at the Vikings’ 17 when play resumes after the two-minute warning.

Vikings 19, Bears 18: After converting a couple first downs to get near midfield, the Bears are facing a fourth-and-9 that could decide the game.

Vikings 19, Bears 18: The Bears’ defense holds up on a short field, but Dan Bailey stays perfect with a 34-yard field goal to put Minnesota ahead.

Bears 18, Vikings 16: Wow. Mitch Trubisky fumbles on the second straight play and this time it’s recovered by Ifeadi Odenigbo. The lineman returned it all the way to the end zone, but it was ruled that he was down by contact at the Bears’ 23.

Bears 18, Vikings 16: Mitch Trubisky fumbles in the backfield after being sacked but manages to recover it.

Bears 18, Vikings 16: After the Bears get the stop, Dan Bailey hits the 39-yard field goal to cut the lead to two points.

Bears 18, Vikings 13: The Vikings go backwards as Oli Udoh gets called for unnecessary roughness following a post-play scuffle. That puts them in a tough third-and-18 situation down a score.

Bears 18, Vikings 13: Alexander Hollins makes a huge catch for 35 yards to put the Vikings at the Bears’ 13. That’s the biggest pass play of the game for Minnesota.

Bears 18, Vikings 13: A brutal unnecessary roughness penalty on Ha Ha Clinton-Dix gives the Vikings a free first down after they’d be stopped on third-and-2.

Bears 18, Vikings 13: On third-and-10, the Bears yet fail to pass beyond the first down line, and Tarik Cohen gets taken down a yard short.

Bears 18, Vikings 13: Mike Boone completes the eight-play, 43-yard drive with the Vikings’ first touchdown of the game.

Third quarter: Bears 18, Vikings 6
Bears 18, Vikings 6: Mitch Trubisky gets stuffed on a QB sneak on fourth-and-1, giving the ball back to the Vikings late in the third quarter.

Bears 18, Vikings 6: Allen Robinson with an amazing catch on third down, but he gets whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct for yelling in the face of a Vikings defender afterwards.

Bears 18, Vikings 6: The Vikings go three-and-out after a good run by Mike Boone on third down gets called back for holding.

Bears 18, Vikings 6: What a drive from David Montgomery, who finishes off a nine-play, 75-yard drive with a 14-yard rumble up the middle. The linemen did a good job of shoving the pile into the end zone to complete the play.

Bears 11, Vikings 6: David Montgomery keeps getting the rock to open the third quarter and it’s working as he’s ran for 43 yards on five carries.

Halftime: Bears 11, Vikings 6
Bears 11, Vikings 6: A good tackle by Ha Ha Clinton-Dix on third down forces the Vikings to settle for a 38-yard field goal.

Bears 11, Vikings 3: Mike Boone takes off for 41 yards to give the Vikings a shot to score inside the final minute of the half. He’s up to 126 rushing yards in the first half.

Bears 11, Vikings 3: Eddy Pineiro hits from 34 yards for his third field goal of the afternoon.

Bears 8, Vikings 3: Taking advantage of the safety, the Bears are slicing into Vikings territory on the subsequent drive. A 17-yard pass to Javon Wims was one of their biggest of the game so far.

Bears 8, Vikings 3: Mike Boone gets taken down for a safety to give the Bears a couple points and possession.

Bears 6, Vikings 3: Bears announce Anthony Miller is questionable to return (shoulder) and Cordarelle Patterson is out for the game (concussion).

Bears 6, Vikings 3: The drive stalls out near midfield, but Pat O’Donnell bombs away a 57-yard punt that’s downed at the Vikings’ own 1-yard line. A good play by the special teams unit.

Bears 6, Vikings 3: The Bears get gifted a first down with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Andrew Sendejo.

Bears 6, Vikings 3: After a good pass over the middle to a wide open Allen Robinson for 18 yards, the offense line gets overwhelmed for an easy sack on Mitch Trubisky.

Bears 6, Vikings 3: Anthony Miller, stepping in for Cordarrelle Patterson while he’s in concussion protocol, goes down on the kick return. Team personnel helped him off the field and into the blue medical tent.

Bears 6, Vikings 3: After the Bears get the stop at their own 19, the Vikings’ Dan Bailey hits a 37-yard field goal to cut the lead in half.

Bears 6, Vikings 0: The Vikings converted a pair of third-and-7 situations, then turned to Mike Boone for a 14-yard run to put them into field goal territory.

First quarter: Bears 6, Vikings 0
Bears 6, Vikings 0: Another trip to the end zone ends with a short field goal from Eddy Pineiro.

Bears 3, Vikings 0: Mitch Trubisky goes down the middle to Allen Robinson for a 15-yard gain on third-and-15. The Bears are now 3-of-4 on third downs so far.

Bears 3, Vikings 0: Another takeaway! Dalvin Cook bobbles a pass and Kevin Pierre-Louis is right there to catch the ball for the first interception of his NFL career.

Bears 3, Vikings 0: The drive stalls out at the Vikings’ 8, so the Bears settle for a 26-yard field goal from Eddy Pineiro.

Bears 0, Vikings 0: A couple third-down conversions have the Bears on the move on their first offensive drive of the game.

Bears 0, Vikings 0: On the next play, Sean Mannion and Mike Boone screw up the handoff, leading to a fumble recovered by Bilal Nichols. That’s the first takeaway by the Bears in a few weeks.

Bears 0, Vikings 0: Mike Boone takes off on the Vikings’ first offensive play of the game for 59 yards to put them at the Bears’ 16. Not a good start.

Before the game
The Bears try to end their 2019 regular season on a high note with a Week 17 matchup against the Vikings on Sunday afternoon. It’s a low stakes game for both sides as Minnesota gets ready for the playoffs while Matt Nagy’s squad takes the field one last time before a long offseason.

Nagy lived up to his claims throughout the week that he’d play his healthy starters by listing all of them active Sunday morning. The same couldn’t be said for the Vikings, who won’t be playing quarterback Kirk Cousins, running back Dalvin Cook and several other key players as they turn an eye toward their Wild Card Round matchup in a week.

The Packers clinched the NFC North title with last week’s win over Minnesota and can clinch a first-round bye with a win over the Lions on Sunday. The Vikings are already locked into the No. 6 seed in the NFC, so they’ll be unaffected by the results of Week 17.

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN — Monday night’s game between the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers isn’t for all the marbles, but an argument could be said that it’s for a whole bunch of them.

The Packers and Vikings are both destined for the playoffs, but based on what happens Monday night and the following week against a depleted Detroit Lions team, the Packers could find themselves as the NFC’s top playoff seed, or the lowest playoff seed. The difference between the two seeds comes down to a first-round bye and at least one home game versus playing up to three games on the road prior to the Super Bowl.

Yikes.

For visiting Green Bay, tackle Bryan Bulaga, corner Kevin King, tackle Alex Light, linebacker Blake Martinez and corner Tramon Williams are all nursing injuries but are certain to play. Tight ends Jimmy Graham and Marcedes Lewis were limited in practice this week, but are also expected to play. Defensive end Dean Lowery is questionable to play.

For the Vikings, defensive tackle Linval Joseph, safety Jayron Kearse, corner Xavier Rhodes and defensive tackle Shamar Stephen are all nursing injuries but are expected to play. It’s at running back where the Vikings might be thin. All-world running back Dalvin Cook is out, and his backup Alexander Mattison is questionable.

Packers

Scheduled to play, but full participants in practice:

Bryan Bulaga T
Kevin King CB
Alex Light T
Blake Martinez LB
Tramon Williams CB

Scheduled to play, but limited participants in practice:

Jimmy Graham TE
Marcedes Lewis TE

Out

Yosuah Nijman T

Questionable

Dean Lowry DE

Vikings

Scheduled to play, but full participants in practice:

Linval Joseph DT
Jayron Kearse S
Xavier Rhodes CB
Shamar Stephen DT

Out

Dalvin Cook RB

Questionable

Alexander Mattison RB

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Custom Ifeadi Odenigbo Jersey Large

CARSON, Calif. — Of all the teams to root for growing up, Ifeadi Odenigbo was a Chargers fan because he liked Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson and longtime quarterback Philip Rivers.

The Vikings defensive end played his first game against his childhood team Sunday and delivered the highlight of a lifetime when he scored on a game-changing, 56-yard fumble return at the end of the first half.

“It was pretty cool. That was my first-ever career touchdown,” Odenigbo said. “Never got one in high school. Never got one in college. Being able to get one in L.A. is pretty neat.”

Minnesota led 12-10 at the time of the touchdown. By the time Odenigbo crossed the goal line with just seven seconds left in the second quarter, the Vikings had put their stamp on the game.

“That was a big play. He hustles all the time, so that was great for us,” Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said of Odenigbo. “The game was kind of going back and forth at that point, so for us to get that right before the half was really big.”

Multiple Vikings had a hand in the play, beginning with Danielle Hunter.

The defensive end breezed past Chargers running back Austin Ekeler, who attempted to chip him, before powering through right tackle Sam Tevi and knocking the ball out of Rivers’ hand.

“I didn’t even notice the chipper,” the 6-foot-5 Hunter said of the 5-10 Ekeler. “I was locked in on the tackle. We knew [Rivers] was going to try to get the ball out quick so we went with our quickest rush.

“I went to power to make him hold the ball. I reached for the ball and the rest happened,” Hunter said.

The Chargers began the play with the ball at the Vikings 26-yard line. But by the time Hunter knocked it away, the pigskin had rolled back to the Vikings 40.

Ekeler raced back to corral it, only to be brought down by linebacker Eric Kendricks, who kept the play alive by knocking the ball away.

“I was a tackler on that play,” Kendricks said. “I was kind of on the sideline, so I knew he was going to jump and get the ball. I held him by the waist.”

Kendricks wasn’t credited with a forced fumble on the play … much to his chagrin.

“It wasn’t? I feel like he had possession,” Kendricks said. “I waited until he picked it up and then knocked it out.”

Odenigbo, who has missed a chance to get the ball immediately after the fumble, then pounced on the ball at the Vikings 44.

“I saw the ball there and I thought, ‘Alright, I get a second chance.’ I was fortunate enough to pick up the ball,” Odenigbo said.

Hunter’s force had started the play, and now his speed was about to extend it, as he raced downfield and threw a block on left tackle Russell Okung at the Chargers 35.

“I knew there was going to be at least one dude in front of him,” Hunter said. “I saw the dude and ran with all my might to block him. I knew if we blocked him, then Ifeadi would be able to score.”

Postgame Celebration Photos From Sunday’s Win Over The Chargers
View postgame celebration images that followed the Vikings win over the Chargers.

The defensive end had thwarted both Chargers offensive tackles on the play … and now Odenigbo was home free.

“I didn’t even realize that,” Hunter said of beating both Tevi and Okung. “I’m glad that happened … I’m happy for [Odenigbo].

“It was his first touchdown,” Hunter said. “When we play together, things like that happen.”

Odenigbo then cruised into the end zone, one of four fumble recoveries and seven total takeaways by the Vikings defense on Sunday.

“I saw Danielle put in an excellent block. I was fortunate to score the touchdown but it was good, complementary football,” Odenigbo said. “Coach Zimmer always harps on pursuit and effort, and that was quite the effort from Danielle and EK.”

The Vikings went into the half up 19-10 after Odenigbo’s massive score. They then dominated in the second half as they outscored the Chargers by a 20-0 margin.

But if you’re looking for a turning point in Sunday’s game, it came when Hunter knocked the ball loose, Kendricks kept the play alive, Odenigbo picked up the rock, Hunter threw a block and Odenigbo coasted right into the end zone.

Said Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins: “Ifeadi’s touchdown at the end of the half was the play of the game.”

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Custom Adam Thielen Jersey Large

For the past few weeks, the Minnesota Vikings have been making a push towards the NFC playoff bracket without the help of one of their top wide receivers.

With the way Kirk Cousins has been playing for the Minnesota Vikings during the team’s past few games, it’s easy to forget that he’s been doing it all despite not having Adam Thielen to throw to.

Thanks to a hamstring injury, Thielen hasn’t been on the field for more than 10 offensive snaps since the Vikings’ win over the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 6.

The hope was that he would be healthy enough to return last week when Minnesota took on the Seattle Seahawks. However, Thielen’s hamstring clearly wasn’t ready and the Vikings decided to also hold him out of Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions.

According to a recent report, however, it seems like Minnesota is looking at their upcoming matchup in Week 15 against the Los Angeles Chargers as the time in which Thielen will return to the field.

NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reported on Sunday that the Vikings and their receiver are, “optimistic (Thielen) can be on the field,” next week in Los Angeles.

Hopefully, the Minnesota receiver is as close to full health as possible and his preparations for Week 15 don’t end up with him suffering another setback with his hamstring. The Vikings have two very important divisional matchups to close out the season coming up and they could certainly use Thielen’s help in these two games.

Should Minnesota attempt to have the veteran receiver return in Week 15 against a Chargers team that only has five wins this year? The Vikings could likely get a win in this matchup without Thielen, but if he’s healthy enough to play, he should be out on the field.

Minnesota doesn’t know what the future holds and their goal for now is to just make sure they come out with a win in each of their final three games of the season. Having Thielen back in the lineup would definitely make this goal much easier to achieve for the Vikings.

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Custom Stephen Weatherly Jersey Large

A tennis ball flies through the air, followed closely behind by two streaks of white fur.

Gravel sprays from beneath their dogs’ paws as they race each other across the fenced-in play area.

A first glance might lead one to believe that the pups share a bloodline, but a closer look reveals distinct differences between the two.

There’s Orion, a Siberian Husky who struts a sleek build and has silvery-blue eyes and a majestic, curled tail.

Atlas, meanwhile, has dark brown eyes, the tell-tail (pun intended) backend of a German Shepherd and large ears that stand at attention.

Vikings defensive end Stephen Weatherly got both as puppies in Nashville, Tennessee, and chose their names based on his love for Greek mythology.

“Orion was first. I really liked the name; I used it in a project that I had in college for a line of mineral water,” Weatherly explained with a chuckle. “And then Atlas, same thing, Greek mythology.”

Purple Pups Photos: Stephen, Atlas & Orion Weatherly
View photos of Vikings DT Stephen Weatherly and his dogs Atlas and Orion who are featured in this segment of Purple Pups.

At the time of this interview, Weatherly had his eye on a white cat at a nearby shelter. Although it didn’t end up working out to adopt the feline, he already had a name picked out: Adonis. For the “trifecta,” he explained.

Maybe someday.

Weatherly points out that while their variances in appearance may be subtle, the contrast in personalities is much starker.

Orion loves to be the center of attention and shows off a craftier demeanor, according to his owner.

“He’s very mischievous, and he does things on purpose. He knows how to open doors,” Weatherly said. “He doesn’t get into anything unless he feels like he’s being disrespected. He’s very much that kind of guy.”

Weatherly first noticed Orion’s “evil-genius side” early on when he realized the puppy was feigning an injury.

“He would fake limps on walks so he wouldn’t have to walk anymore,” Weatherly laughed. “I thought I had hurt him because he was like 12 weeks and wouldn’t walk and started limping, and I’m like, ‘Oh my [gosh], I’ve over-walked him. This is a problem.’

“So I pick him up, I run inside … and poured some food into his bowl, hoping he would feel a little bit better, and he sprinted over to the bowl like everything was fine,” Weatherly continued. “So that was his M.O. Also when he was younger, if you ever [scolded] him and flicked your finger at him, not hitting him, but just flick your finger at him, he would immediately start wincing, like winking one eye like you blinded him, so that was also his way to get pity.”

And as for Atlas?

The younger dog is called “a big dummy” by Weatherly.

“But I love him for it,” the defensive end said. “He’s training to be a lap dog; he doesn’t understand personal space at all. He’ll crawl on the bed, he begs, drops his ears. He tries to get as small as possible, which is hilarious because he’s 85 pounds.

“But yeah, this is the evil genius right here, Orion, and Atlas is [his sidekick],” Weatherly added. “Do you remember Pinky and the Brain? Yeah, that’s Pinky, and this is the Brain.”

Both have learned various tricks – they will sit, lie down, shake and stand on their back legs on command – but only Orion takes after his “dad” in the athletic category.

“Atlas can’t catch unless you throw it directly at him,” Weatherly quipped, patting the German Shepherd on the head. “And then still it’s, like, 50-50.”

Continuing to compare the pair of pups, he pointed out that Orion is independent and “only loves me because he knows I control the food.” He explained that while Orion tends to toe the line and require more discipline, Atlas is truly a man’s best friend.

“German Shepherds, just love them unconditionally, and then they’ll love you back,” Weatherly said. “Atlas is a big, loveable protector.”

He recalled an experience in which he and his then-roommate, Vikings running back Ameer Abdullah, were rough-housing.

“Ameer and I were wrestling, and Atlas thought his father was being beat – which I was,” Weatherly admitted. “And Atlas jumped in and kind of nibbled on Ameer.”

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Interference.

“Nibbled? Nibbled?” Abdullah interjected good-naturedly.

“He gave him a love nip right behind his shoulder,” Weatherly countered.

“I’m probably going to get an infection, I don’t know,” Abdullah said. “And they shed, as you can see.”

He laughed and then added, “No, I love these dogs. They’re great dogs.”

Weatherly concurs.

Although he’s an animal lover in general – he’s been known to babysit turtles, Gnevieve and Gretchen, and enjoys his roommate’s bunny, Benny – he will always be the biggest fan of dogs.

“I had a dog growing up, and being an only child, I feel like that was like my brother in some regards,” Weatherly explained. “I’ve always just loved them. They’re always there. [Whether] I had a great day at practice or a horrible day at practice, they don’t know which one is which. They just love me the same.

“I always tell people that dogs are the only creatures capable of unconditional love,” he added.

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Custom Eric Wilson Jersey Large

Eric Wilson has a history with — and against — Detroit.

The Vikings linebacker grew up in Redford, Michigan, which is fewer than 20 miles from the Lions home stadium of Ford Field.

But he wasn’t a big fan of the team.

“I never grew up a Lions fan … more of a Tigers fan,” Wilson said. “More just fans of good players … a lot of respect for Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson.”

Now in his third season with the Vikings, Wilson has made seven career starts — with three of them against the Lions.

He started both games against Detroit in 2018 and was also a starter in Week 7 of the 2019 season when the Vikings earned a 42-30 win. (Wilson has made six of his seven starts against NFC North opponents).

“I was just excited. Excited to be out there, especially in my hometown,” Wilson said of the games he’s started in Detroit. “I had about 30 people there, just family and friends watching. I was just excited to go make plays.”

“I think last year I started both Lions games and both Bears games,” Wilson added. “Those are big, important games — division games — and it was great to get experience in those.”

Wilson said he likes how his game has improved since arriving as an undrafted free agent from the University of Cincinnati in the spring of 2017.

But he also emphasized the importance of providing depth for the Vikings defense at a moment’s notice.

“I think I’ve been doing a good job. I’ve been steadily trying to get better in any way that I can,” Wilson said. “Just improve on the details and the fundamentals of the game. Those are important, especially at this time of the year.

“And anywhere you look, you have to have guys ready to play and step up,” Wilson added. “Even if it’s only for one play, or for a whole game, you have to be ready and know the game plan even if you’re not listed as starting that week. You have to know all the intricacies and stay ready during the week.”

Wilson has 4.0 sacks in his career, two of which came in Week 3 against Oakland in September. Another occurred against the Bears in Week 11 of the 2018 season.

The fourth, naturally, happened at Ford Field against the Lions in Week 16 last season.

We caught up with Eric to talk about the Vikings linebackers group, visor sponsorships and whether or not he has ties to Lizzo:

Q: Your position group seems especially close. What’s the vibe like in the linebackers room?

A: “It’s great. Our linebackers … we’re a family, we’re a tight group. We hang out a lot off the field and have a lot of fun on the field, so it’s a great room.”

Q: You traveled with Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr last offseason … anything planned for 2020?

A: “We went to Japan, and that was awesome. Not only to see Japan and everything it had to offer, but to bond with the guys. We don’t have a concrete plan [for 2020], but we were maybe thinking about Australia. But to get there, we might have to make a couple stops along the way. We have to talk more about it.”

Q: You blocked a punt in Week 1 that left your helmet visor with blood on it. Did you ever get the Oakley sponsorship you wanted?

A: “I didn’t get the sponsorship. Last year, too, I got smashed in the face and had an Under Armour imprint on my face. I didn’t get a sponsorship from that, either. I don’t know what’s going on with these visor sponsorships … I need to talk to them.”

Q: I noticed you have the Wilson Sporting Goods logo tattooed inside of a football on your left chest. What’s the story behind that?

A: “I got that back when I was 16 or 17, in high school. I thought it was pretty unique that dang near every football had Wilson on it. That is one of my passions, so why not put that on and represent? It’s on my left chest, along with my football numbers over the top of it.”

Q: Is that every number you’ve worn?

A: “That I’ve worn so far for a good period of time. I was a couple different numbers in high school, but the number I was most was 11. And then 23 was my number in college. I don’t have 50 [tattooed] yet, though.”

Q: Time for the most serious question on here. We all know Lizzo sings about the “new man on the Minnesota Vikings” in her song “Truth Hurts.” She recently said he is from the Detroit area. You are from the Detroit area … is it you?

A: “I did hear about that, and a lot of people hit me up asking if I’m the new man or have any type of connection. But I don’t. My mom actually hit me up last [month] asking me questions about that … my uncle, a whole bunch of friends. But it’s not me. I need to do some more investigating.”

Q: I’m guessing a lot of your teammates razz you about that?

A: “Oh, yeah. Kirk [Cousins] and Adam [Thielen] were asking me if that was me. It’s not.”

Editor’s note: This Timeout will run in Sunday’s Playbook game program, which was sent to print on Wednesday. Lizzo posted this tweet Wednesday about the mystery man. Vikings fans know what to do:

1 million RTs and I’ll tell u who my new man on the Minnesota @Vikings is https://t.co/oLmGOSJcrG

— Feelin Good As Hell (@lizzo) December 4, 2019

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Custom Stefon Diggs Jersey Large

A winning day for students at Early Childhood Academy Public Charter School in Southeast.

“Everybody is getting coats that have been paid for,” said 7-year-old Trenton Lemons.

Look who’s at Early Childhood Academy Public Charter School in SE today! @Vikings player and Gaithersburg native Stefon Diggs is here giving out coats with @OperationWarm . His message to students tonight at 5.

“We thank Stefon Diggs because he gave us coats,” said second grader Jaiden Barrera.

The Minnesota Vikings wide receiver flew back to his hometown to distribute coats to children in need.

“Trying to take that load off of parents who might not have it or who might have it, still just want a little assistance. You know, I just try to do my part,” he said.

A winning day at Early Childhood Academy PCS in SE. “Everybody is getting coats!” said 7-year-old Trenton Lemons. “We thank @stefondiggs because he gave us coats,” said Jaiden Barrera. See the @Vikings player back in his hometown giving out coats & kindness tonight at 4.

More than 70-percent of students at the school are considered at risk and 100-percent qualify for free and reduced lunch.

“We’ve now made it a point to go into underserved areas, underserved schools primarily, and provide coats to these kids in need,” said Chefik Simo of Operation Warm.

The non-profit organization provided nearly 300 coats and the former University of Maryland player helped give them out.

That’s very good especially for people who are cold-natured like me,” said Lemons.

“Yes. So we won’t be sick and it’s cold outside,” said Barrera.

Diggs received sincere gratitude from students and offered them words of encouragement.

“Make sure that you are doing your homework so you can do well in school. I talked to somebody earlier and they said practice makes perfect, can everybody agree with that?”

His audience was in full agreement; happy to receive advice and assistance from a hometown hero.

Diggs lived in Waldorf, Laurel and Gaithersburg before playing football at Maryland and being drafted by the Vikings in 2015.

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Custom Trae Waynes Jersey Large

After forging a friendship in middle school in Kenosha, Wisc., Trae Waynes and Melvin Gordon have been on the same career trajectory.

Both played college ball in the Big Ten.

Both were drafted in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft.

Both are playing out their fifth professional seasons before hitting unrestricted free agency in March.

Heck, both belong to franchises that have changed stadiums in the last five years.

But when Waynes and Gordon get together — sometimes for an offseason fishing trip on Lake Minnetonka or back home in Wisconsin to host an annual football camp — the talks rarely focus on the sport that’s given them so much common ground over the past 15 years.

“We don’t really talk about too much football when we talk,” Waynes told Zone Coverage. “We’ve been friends for a long time. It goes beyond football. When we talk it’s more about just, ‘Hey, how you doing?’ We’re [BSing], we ain’t really talking so much about football and reminiscing.”

While football may not be the crux of their conversations nowadays, it was certainly the source of their friendship.

“When we met, we were both — I don’t really want to say underdogs — but overlooked,” Waynes said. “We met in middle school and we were both playing football and stuff, and I remember vividly, one of the things him telling me is, ‘No one thinks I can play running back. No one believes I can play running back.’ My thing was like, ‘Well s—, everybody thinks I’m too small.’

“So we both kind of had that adversity starting out while playing football because he was newer to the scene and nobody believed in what he could really do. And on my end, nobody thought I could do it because I was small, so we had that connection. We both had the same goals to make it to where we wanted to be in life.”

Getting selected within the first 15 picks of the 2015 draft put to rest many of those doubts. It’s believable, though, that Waynes would happily remind Gordon he was taken four picks higher.

Videos showing the two of them before the draft reveal their constant banter — sometimes exchanging barbs over who would win if Gordon was carrying the ball into Waynes’ space on the football field.

Three weeks into their NFL careers, that scenario had a chance to play out when the Chargers came to play the Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium. Xavier Rhodes went down with an injury in the first half, opening the door for Waynes’ first career appearance on defense. He played 41 snaps that game, but Gordon never ran the ball his way. Minnesota handled San Diego 31-14.

Sunday’s tilt in Los Angeles is their first regular season meeting since. In the time that’s passed, Waynes has become a full-time starter, Gordon a 1,000-yard rusher.

The meeting could be Gordon and Waynes’ last on their present teams. Both are likely to seek high-end salaries at their respective positions, while their franchises face difficult decisions. The cap-strapped Vikings have two other unrestricted free agents in the secondary between Anthony Harris and Mackensie Alexander, while the Chargers will have to weigh Gordon’s production against the more affordable Austin Ekeler’s.

It’s undetermined whether the two friends will rendezvous Saturday night once the Vikings arrive in Los Angeles.

“L.A. traffic is terrible,” said Waynes.

THIELEN RETURNS
After missing all or part of seven consecutive games, injured wide receiver Adam Thielen appears set for a return on Sunday. After sitting out of practice all of the previous week, Thielen was a participant each of the last three days and did not receive an injury designation despite being listed as limited in practice.

The Vikings went 5-2 in the seven games affected by Thielen’s injury, the first time in his career Minnesota’s star receiver has missed significant playing time.

“I’ve learned a lot from the process,” Thielen said Thursday. “I think for me the main thing has just been focusing on every day, trying to do what I have to do to get back on the field and be out there with my teammates and helping them win games. In the meantime when I couldn’t play, just try to do whatever I could to help out the young guys or to be any type of resource for anybody. I don’t know if I did a great job, but I was trying my best every day. Like I said, I’ve learned a lot from the process, and it definitely will help me moving forward.”

While sidelined, Thielen has gotten a chance to watch Stefon Diggs become the passing game’s focal point despite receiving extra attention from secondaries. Diggs is three yards shy of his second straight 1,000-yard season.

“Probably the best I’ve ever seen him play,” said Thielen. “Just his mentality, the way that he’s handled himself, I thought, as he’s grown a lot as a player, and I think he’s just playing at a high level right now. And you see that he’s getting a lot of coverage and a lot of looks and a lot of attention, obviously, and he’s still able to get open and make plays and things like that.”

In other injury news, safety Jayron Kearse (toe) and running back Alexander Mattison (ankle) were ruled out of Sunday’s game. Head coach Mike Zimmer said that Mike Boone will replace Mattison as the backup to Dalvin Cook.

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Custom Anthony Barr Jersey Large

When the Vikings made a roster move in October that led to a locker being open next to the one for linebacker Anthony Barr, rookie cornerback Kris Boyd swooped in and claimed it.

So, for the past two months, Boyd and Barr have been at adjacent lockers at the TCO Performance Center. The rookie said he learns something just about every day from the four-time Pro Bowl selection.

“I see him as a big brother to me,’’ Boyd said. “He kind of took me in when I got here.’’

Barr is in his sixth season with the Vikings and second as one of six team captains. Since becoming a captain last year, the soft-spoken Barr has sought to be even more of a leader.

After Boyd, 23, was selected in the seventh round of the draft out of Texas in April, he got to know Barr. The linebacker saw something in him.

“His personality is just kind of contagious,’’ said Barr, 27. “He’s got a very positive spirit, a positive vibe. He keeps things entertaining. It’s good to have a younger perspective around some older guys. He keeps things fresh and funky for us.’’

Barr certainly has a soft spot for Boyd. When he learned that Boyd had somehow been left out of receiving a present in a Christmas gift-giving exchange in the Vikings locker room, Barr stepped up and surprised him with a nifty Louis Vuitton bag.

“He was a little hurt on Christmas because I guess he didn’t get a gift, so I felt bad for him,’’ Barr said.

Barr also invited the rookie to join him at linebacker Eric Kendricks’ home on Christmas. Several other veterans also were there.

“It was really cool,’’ Boyd said of Barr presenting him with the Louis Vuitton bag. “I have it posted on Instagram.’’

Boyd has played mostly on special teams this season and has been very effective as a gunner on the punt team. He’s played just 47 snaps on defense, but could be in for more work Sunday when the Vikings (10-5), locked into the No. 6 NFC spot, face Chicago (7-8) at U.S. Bank Stadium a regular-season finale with no playoff implications.

Early in the season, when Boyd wasn’t playing much, Barr talked to him about not getting down.

“I was just trying to keep him calm, understand you know your time is going to come,’’ Barr said. “I told him that you’re a guy who’s going to have a long career in this league and just be patient and enjoy the process.’’

Boyd appreciates the advice he has gotten from Barr. That’s why when a locker opened next to Barr’s in October, he moved from across the room.

“He actually told me not to move, but he was just joking,’’ Boyd said. “We just have a connection. Now that I’m next to him, we chop it up every day.

“If I ever have any questions, he’ll give me tips and information. He’s always telling me to keep my head up and always stay ready.’’

Sunday’s game could provide a good opportunity for Boyd. He anticipates getting some snaps on defense.

“That’s how it’s looking right now,’’ he said. “It would be cool.’’

The Vikings like Boyd’s potential. Defensive coordinator George Edwards said he has continued to get better in practice throughout the season.

“Kris has a lot of speed,’’ Edwards said. “He can get in and out of a cut. The big thing is that schematically, I think this is his first time through.’’

Special teams coordinator Marwan Maalouf likes the aggressiveness Boyd has shown on special teams. He leads the unit in tackles.

On Dec. 8, Boyd had a big hit on Detroit’s Danny Amendola on a punt return. Barr was impressed with that play.

“I know the capability he has of being a good player in this league and just want to see him do well,’’ Barr said. “So I’ve got to stay on him.’’