The Vikings have placed starting right guard Pat Elflein on injured reserve, the team announced on Thursday afternoon.
Elflein suffered a thumb injury in the team's practice Thursday, according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. The new IR rules mean he won't be eligible to return to action until Week 5 at the earliest, but Pelissero is reporting that "the timetable is unclear" for Elflein's return.
In his place, the Vikings will turn to one of Dru Samia, Ezra Cleveland, or Aviante Collins. Samia seems like the most natural choice since he spent all of training camp at right guard while Cleveland and Collins were competing with Dakota Dozier for the left guard job.
Samia is a 2019 fourth-round pick from Oklahoma who essentially redshirted during his rookie season but got a chance to play in Week 17. He has the upside to potentially be an upgrade from Elflein, but there's also the possibility that he will struggle if he's chosen as the replacement. After all, Elflein won the job in camp for a reason.
In Week 1 against the Packers, five of the seven pressures allowed by the offensive line were credited to Elflein. He led the team with 32 pressures and six sacks allowed in 2019 while being penalized eight times. This offseason, Elflein switched positions for the third time in four NFL seasons, moving from left guard to the right side. He began his Vikings career as a center, being selected in the third round in 2017.
Elflein is one of the weakest starters on the Vikings' roster, so this isn't necessarily a huge loss. But it's worth noting that things can always get worse, and that Samia or whoever else replaces him in the starting lineup is far from a guarantee to replicate his level of production. Elflein has some serious issues in pass protection, but he's a solid run blocker.
This could be a big opportunity for Samia to seize the right guard job and – if he plays well – not relinquish it when Elflein returns.
Dantzler misses second straight practice
The other injury news from Thursday is that rookie cornerback Cameron Dantzler missed his second consecutive practice with a rib injury. Dantzler started and led all Vikings corners with 64 snaps against the Packers. If he's unable to go, fellow rookie Jeff Gladney would be in line for a major role.
He's the only player for the Vikings whose status for Sunday's game in Indianapolis is in question.
Three players missed practice for the Colts on Thursday: DE Justin Houston, TE Jack Doyle, and CB Isaiah Rodgers. Here's the full injury report.
As a reminder, Elflein and Danielle Hunter aren't listed because they're on IR, not the active roster.
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