The Vikings were down four starters at their first practice of the week on Wednesday. Adam Thielen remains on the COVID-19 list after being placed there on Monday, while Ezra Cleveland (ankle) is in danger of missing a second straight game. Harrison Smith (neck) and Ifeadi Odenigbo (shoulder/concussion) also missed practice.
Thielen's status is up in the air heading into the Vikings' Week 12 matchup with the Panthers. He reportedly had both a positive and a negative test for COVID-19 earlier this week, so it'll all come down to the results of his tests going forward.
“Yeah, I don’t know, honestly," Mike Zimmer said when asked about Thielen's availability Obviously he’s in the COVID protocol, and we’ll just see. When you get in these protocols, it’s always about, ‘What’s the next test, and the next test?’ So we’ll just have to see as the week goes on.”
As of now, I'd guess that Thielen will be activated sometime this week and will be able to play on Sunday. But if that's not the case, Justin Jefferson would become the No. 1 receiver and the Vikings would turn to Chad Beebe and Bisi Johnson as their secondary targets. Tajae Sharpe would presumably also be active if Thielen can't play.
Assuming Cleveland can't return this week, Brett Jones will get his second straight start at right guard. The veteran Canadian was the Vikings' highest-graded offensive lineman – by far – against the Cowboys.
"Brett did an outstanding job," Kirk Cousins said. "My first two starts for the Vikings [in 2018], Brett was the center and did a great job then. He's quietly in the background, been doing a great job for us for the last two and a half years. Every single day on the scout team and as a reserve, coming in at center or guard. So no surprise there. Just proud of the way he played and we're going to need him to keep it up."
The injuries to Smith and Odenigbo are concerning, as those are two key players for Zimmer's struggling defense. Smith hasn't missed a game due to injury since 2016, but it's always notable when a player is listed as having a neck injury. Odenigbo dealing with a concussion and a shoulder injury also throws his status into question. Hopefully neither injury is serious.
Smith's replacement would either be veteran Curtis Riley or rookie Josh Metellus. Odenigbo's hypothetical absence would leave the Vikings relying on Jalyn Holmes, D.J. Wonnum, and Hercules Mata'afa at defensive end.
Irv Smith Jr. (groin) was limited but should be good to go after playing last Sunday. Dru Samia was activated from the COVID-19 list.
For the Panthers, Teddy Bridgewater (knee) was a full participant and is on track to start against his former team. Vikings players and coaches spoke fondly of Bridgewater on Wednesday, and it'll be a cool moment to see him back in U.S. Bank Stadium (although it would be cooler if fans were present to give him a standing ovation).
Christian McCaffrey was limited with a shoulder injury and may be a game-time decision on Sunday. Starting cornerback Donte Jackson (concussion) missed Carolina's practice.
Here's the complete injury report for both teams:
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