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Custom Mackensie Alexander Jersey Large

The Vikings got a key part of their defense on the practice field for the first time this week on Thursday.

Linebacker Eric Kendricks has been sidelined by a quadricep injury of late, but multiple reports from the open portion of Thursday’s practice have him on the field for the first time since Week 16.

Kendricks played at least 86 percent of the team’s defensive snaps in every game until he was injured against the Packers. He had 110 tackles, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and 12 passes defended in his 15 starts.

Cornerback Mackensie Alexander (knee), safety Andrew Sendejo (illness) and defensive end Stephen Weatherly (illness) missed practice for the second straight day.

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EAGAN, Minn. – It’s never ideal to have key pieces of your roster sidelined, but the Vikings always have a plan in place.

The Vikings announced that Adam Thielen, who suffered a hamstring injury in Week 7 during 2019’s first meeting between the Vikings and Lions, is doubtful for Sunday’s matchup.

Two other starters – left tackle Riley Reiff and running back Dalvin Cook – left Monday night’s game with injuries. Reiff (concussion) is designated as questionable; Cook, who has maintained confidence throughout the week that he will play Sunday, did not receive a status and should be good to go.

But regardless of who’s in the lineup come Sunday at noon, the Vikings coaching staff will be ready with a game plan.

Vikings Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanski spoke with Twin Cities media members on Thursday and explained the approach.

“You always sit there on Monday and Tuesday, and you’re working with the training staff on who they think might be available, so you’re putting a plan together and you have a, ‘If this guy is ready, we’ll do it out of this formation, and if he’s not, it’ll be this formation,’ ” Stefanski said. “So, it’s certainly something that we’re talking about throughout the week, and even on game day you have to have those conversations.

“Luckily, I have a really good coaching staff that can help me through that and say, ‘All right, hey, we’ve lost this guy, now we’re out of that personnel group. Now the next time you want to do that, let’s do it out of this personnel group,’ ” he added.

If Reiff isn’t able to play this weekend, tackle Rashod Hill would get the nod in his place.

Since the Vikings signed him off the Jaguars practice squad in 2016, Hill has played in 39 games for Minnesota and made 15 starts.

Stefanski highlighted Hill’s versatility as a swing tackle who prepares throughout the season to step in on the right or left side, depending on where he’s needed.

“You saw in that game [against the Seahawks] he came in, and I thought he performed pretty well,” Stefanski said of Hill. “Riley’s a captain of this team, [and we] certainly want him out there. If he’s not available to go, that’s why you have backups that are on point like Rashod, like he showed this last week.

“Rashod is certainly a guy that we’ve leaned on,” Stefanski added. “He’s come in during a game before. He’s come in during the week. He’s really taken the bit as being a player that is always ready to go.”

Injury Report

The Vikings on Friday announced that Thielen (hamstring) is doubtful, and Reiff (concussion) is questionable.

DT Linval Joseph (knee), RB Dalvin Cook (chest), DE Everson Griffen (knee), DT Shamar Stephen, LB Eric Wilson (shoulder) and S Harrison Smith (hamstring) were not given a status on Friday’s report and are likely ready to go.

The Lions ruled out DL Da’Shawn Hand (ankle) and QB Matthew Stafford (hip/back).

DE Austin Bryan (hip) is doubtful, and CBs Jamal Agnew and Rashaan Melvin are each questionable.

DT Damon Harrison, Sr., (calf/knee/resting vet) and P Sam Martin (abdomen) did not receive a status and likely will play on Sunday.

Fan Mail

How is our practice squad doing? Anybody there “coming on”? In particular, offensive linemen?

– Gary

The Vikings currently have just one offensive lineman on the practice squad in center John Keenoy. He was with the team in training camp but came back last month. Aviante Collins had been on the practice squad for most of the season, but he was recently elevated to the 53-man roster.

Some names to keep an eye on might be tight end Brandon Dillon, who originally made the 53-man roster out of camp, and defensive end Stacy Keely, who could show growth next year in OTAs and training camp.

Thanks for the support, and SKOL!

Quotable

“This is just about the next game. It’s about getting back on track. Stacking good play together and building some momentum leading into that potential playoff run. The only thing we’re trying to do is get a ticket to the dance; once we get in, it’s anyone’s game. It’s about whatever team shows up to play on that given Saturday, Sunday, Monday – I don’t even care what day it is. The only thing we want is a ticket in, and then we’re going to take care of business.”

– DE Stephen Weatherly on if there’s a “higher sense of urgency” this week

Last chance! Vote to help make sure all your favorite Vikings make the 2020 Pro Bowl in Orlando. Voting ends Dec. 12, 2019.

Cook and Company could play a key role for the Vikings on Sunday.

Minnesota is 6-1 when gaining at least 150 net yards rushing.

Against Detroit in Week 7, the Vikings racked up 166 yards on the ground. Dalvin Cook led the way with 25 carries for 142 yards and two touchdowns. If he in any way has a limited workload, however, the Vikings have equal confidence in rookie running back Alexander Mattison, Ameer Abdullah and Mike Boone.

“I think you saw at the end of this last ballgame we didn’t have Dalvin. and we’re in a two-minute throwing session and not much changes,” Stefanski said. “We look at it as our backups know the game plan cold, and they’re ready to go. Are they the same player as a Dalvin Cook? No. We understand that, but we’re not going to limit ourselves and what we can do without any one of our players.”

Broadcast Info

TV BROADCAST

FOX (KMSP in the Twin Cities)

Play-by-Play: Thom Brennaman

Analyst: Chris Spielman

Sideline Reporter: Shannon Spake

LOCAL RADIO

KFAN (100.3-FM/KTLK 1130-AM in Minneapolis/St. Paul)

Play-by-Play: Paul Allen

Analyst: Pete Bercich

Sideline Reporters: Greg Coleman & Ben Leber

Radio Pre-game Show: Mike Mussman | 10 a.m. (CT)

KFAN and KTLK serve as the flagship stations for the five-state Vikings Radio Network.

SATELLITE RADIO

Sirius: DEN 133 or Streaming 809; MIN 81 or Streaming 819

XM: DEN Streaming 809; MIN 225 or Streaming 819

ADDITIONAL OPTIONS

Click here for the full bevy of options that include over-the-air, cable, satellite, over-the-top and streaming methods.

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Custom Pat Elflein Jersey Large

Vikings guard Pat Elflein is in his third NFL season but first under Minnesota’s current offensive coaching staff.

Elflein believes this new system best-fits Minnesota’s roster and gives its offensive playmakers a chance to shine.

The Vikings enter tonight’s game ranked fourth in rushing yards per game (135.9), second in passing yards per play (8.03) and fourth in interception rate (1.21).

“It lets Dalvin [Cook] get the ball in his hands and pretty much run the ball where he wants to. It lets Kirk [Cousins] get out in space a little bit and take some shots, and it allows us linemen to run block … to really attack some defenses with the run game,” Elflein said. “I feel like we’re on the attack.”

Asked what makes the Vikings offensive line group special, Elflein pointed to the coaches, as well as veteran left tackle Riley Reiff.

“Riley is our leader; I think it starts there – really having a blue-collar work mentality,” he said. “Every time we come to practice or come to the weight room or go to meetings, we’re locked in, and we’re about our business. But we also have a lot of fun together, too. I feel like we have a good balance of both.”

Added Elflein: “We take pride in that.”

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We caught up with Pat to chat about pounding the beef, spreading holiday cheer and – of course – mullets.

Q: Dalvin Cook is headed to his first Pro Bowl; how much pride do you take in that?

A: “We’re so happy that Dalvin made the Pro Bowl. From where he’s been … through injuries and a lot of things he’s had to deal with, for him to come back from that and make the Pro Bowl, it’s a testament to what type of person he is, what type of player, his resiliency, and just the flat-out talent he has. With and without the football, he’s an incredible player. We’re happy for him, and I know he’s definitely earned it.”

Q: How fun is it when he gives the football to a lineman to spike after he scores?

A: “It’s awesome. Dalvin’s sharing the love. He’s scoring touchdowns, getting all that, and for him to give the ball to us to have a little fun with it, too, it just makes it fun. Something to look forward to, an opportunity to let a little personality show. And it’s a bonding moment, too; we all get excited for each other when we score and get to do something like that.”

Q: Has there been a top spike this season?

A: “Yeah – all of mine.”

efllein-feature-5-2560
Q: ‘Pound the Beef’ has become a popular phrase – tell me about that.

A: “Basically, it just means pounding the rock, running the football. It just kind of evolved into what we do on Sundays when we’re able to run the ball and really impose our will. Pound the beef. Pound the rock.”

Q: And even Kirk gets in on it sometimes, right?

A: “Yeah. Sometimes he’ll carry it, and he’ll pound some beef, too. We’ll let him know he’s poundin’. Oh yeah.”

Q: Christmas is soon; what’s the best Christmas gift you’ve gotten?

A: “It had to be when I was a kid, and my mom got us an X-box; I was pretty pumped about that.”

Q: Your last name is a fun one around the holidays; how fun was the Elf Line video last year?

A: “And we did one at the mall recently, too. Gettin’ in the Christmas spirit is fun and something that I’ve always done, and as an O-line, we like to get into the Christmas spirit. I have the last name that kind of goes along with it, so anytime I get to play along with that and spread some Christmas cheer, I’m all about it. It’s fun.”

Q: Which is more fun? Dressing up as an elf or as Mario for the Kids Club Halloween party?

A: “Those were both pretty good. When I was Mario, [right tackle] Brian O’Neill was Luigi, so it was fun to kind of tag-team that one. But, we actually dressed up as elves together, too, at the mall. Dressing up as elves is pretty fun – everyone gets a kick out of that for the holidays.”

Q: In all seriousness, why is a positive presence in the community important to you?

A: “It’s an awesome community. As Vikings players, we feel the utmost support from the fans all season, even in the offseason. The city, the fans, the people here have our back – and it shows on game day. So … to make someone’s day, to make someone’s holiday, whatever we can do to do that, we love it. We love giving back. We did the Halloween party, we did the Thanksgiving turkey giveaway, we were spreading Christmas cheer at the mall. Anytime we get a chance to do that, we always take advantage.”

pat-elflein-1-2560

Q: Tell me a little about the facial hair you have going on here.

A: “Oh, the ’stache? It’s just kind of grown into a style that I’ve been embracing this year. I don’t really know where it came from, but I’m just rocking this mustache right now, and I feel like I can’t shave it. I just can’t do it right now. I like to get cleaned up, too, get a nice haircut and be clean-shaven – but right now, I just can’t. I’m wearing this mustache until the time is right.”

Q: Brian O’Neill told me to ask you about the mullet, too.

A: “Oh, yeah, I’ve got a mullet going, too, trying to grow the back out. I’ve always been a fan of Joe Dirt, and then the Kurt Dirt thing kind of came around, and I was just like, ‘I’m growing a mullet.’ So that’s what I’ve been doing.”

Q: Do you think you’ll get to keep it for your wedding in April?

A: “Not a chance. There’s a zero-percent chance of keeping it for the wedding. It’ll be fun while it lasts.”

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Custom Linval Joseph Jersey Large

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 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 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 Harris Jersey Large

Vikings safety Anthony Harris had himself quite the 2019 season.

Harris graded as Pro Football Focus‘ second-highest safety with a grade of 90.5. It’s a 1.5 increase from his 2018 grade.

Along with that, Harris finished the 2019 season with a career-high six interceptions. It’s a mark that also was tied for the league lead along with New England’s Stephon Gilmore and Buffalo’s Tre’Davious White.

This glow up for Harris has come at a good time considering he’s in a contract year and is set to be an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

Surely the Vikings will do everything they can to retain Harris considering how valuable he’s been to this defense over the last two seasons.

The Vikings will need him at his best, along with the other defensive backs, in Sunday’s playoff game against Drew Brees, Michael Thomas and the Saints.

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The Vikings have released Sunday’s list of inactives before the final game of the season at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Six of the team’s starters will not dress on Sunday as well as rookie running back Alexander Mattison.

Below is the list of Vikings players who will not suit up:

RB Alexander Mattison

RB Dalvin Cook

LB Eric Kendricks

LB Anthony Barr

T Riley Reiff

T Brian O’Neill

DT Shamar Stephen