Among a flurry of roster moves announced Monday afternoon, the Vikings designated two players for return from injured reserve as they come out of the bye week. Guard Pat Elflein (thumb) and linebacker Troy Dye (foot) have each been out since mid-September but are now close to a return to game action.
The Vikings designating Elflein and Dye for return from IR doesn't mean they're back on the active roster just yet. Per the team's official release, they "now return to practice for a period not to exceed 21 calendar days and may return to the 53-player Active/Inactive Roster at any time during this period. Should they not return to the Active/Inactive Roster within this period, they will stay on Reserve/Injured for the remainder of the 2020 season."
Basically, Elflein and Dye will return to practice and can be activated any time within the next three weeks. I suppose this allows the Vikings to see where they're at with their respective injuries and conditioning and things of that nature before they make the decision to actually put them back on the 53-man roster. That could happen prior to this Sunday's game against the Packers, or it could wait an additional week or two.
Elflein has been out since Week 1 due to a thumb injury. In his place, the Vikings started Dru Samia at right guard in Weeks 2 through 5. Samia was unfathomably bad and missed Week 6 with a wrist injury, so the Vikings gave rookie Ezra Cleveland his first career start at RG.
It'll be interesting to see what the offensive line looks like for the rest of the season. That picture all hinges on whether or not left tackle Riley Reiff is traded before the Nov. 3 deadline and how fully the Vikings want to commit to a youth movement. As long as Reiff remains on the team, the Vikings will have to choose two of Dakota Dozier, Cleveland, and Elflein to start at guard. If Reiff is traded, Cleveland could potentially move to left tackle. Could a young player like Oli Udoh or Kyle Hinton get a shot to play over Dozier or Elflein in a lost season?
As for Dye, he's been out since Week 2 with a foot injury. The fourth-round rookie from Oregon was in line for a big role with Anthony Barr getting hurt, so landing on IR was a tough break. The Vikings went on to sign veteran Todd Davis, who gradually became their No. 3 linebacker behind Eric Kendricks and Eric Wilson. Once Dye gets back in the swing of things, it'll be interesting to see if he takes snaps from Davis or even Wilson.
The Vikings still have five players on IR: Barr, Danielle Hunter, George Iloka, Kenny Willekes, and Myles Dorn. Barr, Hunter, and Iloka are all out for the year. I'm not sure about rookies Willekes or Dorn, but I would assume they're out for the year as well.
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