The Vikings placed offensive tackle Matt Kalil, who has started all 66 games during his NFL career, on injured reserve because of a hip injury Wednesday.
He will have surgery, coach Mike Zimmer said.
“We assume it will be,” Zimmer said, when asked if the surgery was season ending.
T.J. Clemmings, who started last season at right tackle, will replace Kalil.
Not long after stepping to the podium and announcing Kalil’s status — and that future Hall of Fame running back Adrian Peterson would have knee surgery that could end his season — Zimmer was asked what his message to the team on Wednesday morning. He gave a defiant shrug, signifying the NFL’s next-man-up mantra.
“I feel like we have to go back to work and go play Carolina,” Zimmer said. “I expect [the players] to perform the way I always expect them to perform.”
Clemmings was thrust into the starting lineup as a rookie in the preseason a year ago when right tackle Phil Loadholt went down for the season. Although Clemmings played all 17 games, including the playoff loss to Seattle, he struggled with speed rushers and stunts that defenders used to cross up protection schemes.
The Vikings then replaced him in free agency with former Bengals tackle Andre Smith. Clemmings competed for the starting job, but had to settle for being the swing tackle even though his only experience with left tackle was at the Senior Bowl in 2015.
“He’s done pretty good in the preseason,” Zimmer said. “He’s a good athlete. He’s going to compete and fight.”
The Vikings will go with Clemmings backed up by Jeremiah Sirles.
“At this point in time, I think it’s hard to find left tackles that are on the street,” Zimmer said. “We’re planning on going with what we got.”
Kalil, 27, was drafted fourth overall out of USC in 2012 and has not missed a start since. He played the first two games of the season despite the hip injury that kept him out of practice last Wednesday and Thursday, and he was listed as questionable before playing every offensive snap in Sunday’s 17-14 victory over Green Bay.
The team picked up Kalil’s fifth year option, meaning he will make $11 million this season.
Zimmer, like a lot of coaches, enjoys motivating his players by telling them all about the people who are doubting them. Wednesday’s news should make that an easier sell in the locker room.
“I would think so,” Zimmer said. “I don’t think many people think we can win this game. I don’t think many people thought we could win the last game.”
The Vikings started training camp looking deep on the offensive line after signing Smith and free agent left guard Alex Boone. But veteran center John Sullivan could not make the team after missing last season because of back surgery, and Loadholt retired. Fourth round pick Willie Beavers is a project at tackle and is on the practice squad after being cut and clearing waivers.
Zimmer hopes the Vikings (2-0) won’t miss a beat.
“This team, to me, is a team that is — and I’ve said this before — they’re resilient, they’re tough, they’re competitive,” Zimmer said. “Obviously, we’ve had a few setbacks. But I think we could go back to last year and look at some of the things that happened. We’re not the type of team that’s going to sit back and cry about what’s happened. We’re going to go forward and, like I’ve said before, try to find a way.”