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Injuries Mount as Vikings Forge Ahead to Week 1

Injuries Mount as Vikings Forge Ahead to Week 1

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It’s never easy, is it?

The Minnesota Vikings square off on the road against the Cincinnati Bengals in less than two weeks as injury fears continue to stack.

General Manager Rick Spielman stockpiled a conglomeration of defense resources this offseason (Patrick Peterson, Dalvin Tomlinson, etc.) via free agency while fortifying the offensive side of things with offensive pieces (Christian Darrisaw, Wyatt Davis, etc.) from the NFL draft. The Vikings 2021 roster seemed pretty spiffy as the summer commenced, setting the stage for high expectations in September.

However, the full sizzle surrounding the “we’re back” forecast is temporarily tamed. The prognosis for 2021 is not underwater by any means, but cynicism is irresistible considering some of the injuries that now exist.

There are maladies that should be no big deal. The world ceased spinning a few weeks ago when Justin Jefferson sprained his AC joint – nobody knew for about one hour what the hell happened to him. Thankfully, his injury was relatively minor, and Jefferson is already back practicing with the team. But remember that ailment if Jefferson experiences any more setbacks. Adam Thielen also encountered a minor injury to his thigh in the second preseason game, canceling any chance of getting the offense off the ground in that contest. Then, rookie halfback Kene Nwangwu is nursing a hyperextended left knee back to health. He isn’t slated to play a huge role in the offense. His speed, however, is alluring to have available on Sundays.

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Those are the mentionable tweaks that are “no biggie.”

After that, the recovered and recovering list is a bit noteworthy. Danielle Hunter returns to regular season action versus the Bengals, missing all of 2021 with a scary neck injury. During the offseason, Hunter looked fantastic. He will probably be just fine in getting back to his tyrannical ways, but it’s vital to remember this is a man that hopes to bounce back from one of sports’ worst injuries – of the neck variety.

Also, Michael Pierce was plagued by a calf issue, dating all the way back to July. It would not be entirely strange for that one to flare up again, although that is merely speculative. And new wide receiver Dede Westrbook is clawing back from an ACL tear. The former Jacksonville Jaguar is theorized to be a part of the Vikings 2021 return game – which was terrible in 2020. Westbrook also has a WR3 resume, something Minnesota has craved for about a decade.

Now, for the real eyebrow-raisers.

Anthony Barr is banged up with something. The rumor mill has whispered a groin injury, but that is conjecture for now. Barr missed 14.5 games in 2020, sending the Vikings defense further into an atypical tailspin. He’s a captain of Minnesota’s defense, living on the depth chart for head coach Mike Zimmer’s entire tenure. The Vikings could really, really use a healthy Barr.

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Drafted with the 23rd overall pick, Christian Darrisaw is not trending in the right direction to start early in the season. Instead, Rashod Hill – a career LT2 – is on the menu for LT1 duties. Ironically, the Vikings face their old LT1 during Week 1 in Ohio – Riley Reiff. A prolonged absence from Darrisaw only delays his development for a team that needs a good left tackle now.

The most concerning injury hit the news wire last weekend. Irv Smith Jr., who is the sure-fire TE1 for the first time in his young career, now faces the prospect of missing anywhere from one to 16 games in 2021. Good Lord. That revelation fell out of the sky Sunday onto smartphones at a time when Vikings fans have largely bemoaned the offensive production in the preseason. In fact, the only competent part of the Vikings first-string offense in Preseason Game #3 – was Smith Jr.

If Smith Jr. is a no-go for one week – or 16 weeks – Minnesota will lean on Tyler Conklin indefinitely. It is undetermined if he is capable of bonafide TE1 status in an NFL offense. Probably – but it leaves a lot to chance. Otherwise, the Vikings can sign a free agent or execute a trade to fill Smith Jr.’s shoes.

Mike Zimmer is under the gun for 2021. The season is penultimate for him. Every year, he mixes and matches good seasons with mediocre ones. Check your calendars. The odd-numbered seasons are peachy whereas the even-numbered ones usually end up in the ballpark of 8-8.

So, the Vikings will have to mitigate injuries out of the gate to continue Zimmer’s odd-year winning voodoo.

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