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Breaking news and year-round coverage of the NFL's Minnesota Vikings. Access Vikings is the Star Tribune's blog covering team news, rumors, games and all things purple.

Sam Bradford not participating early in Vikings' Friday practice

As the Vikings began their final practice of the week before Sunday’s game, Sam Bradford wasn’t on the field.

The quarterback, who has been limited in practice the first two days of the week because of the left knee issues that kept him out of Sunday’s game in Pittsburgh, wasn’t taking part in the brief portion of Friday’s practice open to the media. Case Keenum (who started on Sunday against the Steelers) and Kyle Sloter were the only QBs taking part in the session.

It’s here we should note that Bradford hasn’t been on the practice field at the end of the Vikings’ first two practices this week, so it’s possible his absence at the beginning of Friday’s practice was a bit of gamesmanship from the Vikings, in an effort to conceal their intentions about whether Bradford will play on Sunday. Generally, players who aren’t on the field during the open portion of practice turn out to be non-participants in the entire session, but if the Vikings are committed to a cloak-and-dagger strategy with their quarterbacks, they could limit Bradford’s practice participation to the parts that are closed to reporters.

In any case, coach Mike Zimmer will address the media after practice, and the Vikings will have to list Bradford’s participation in their final injury report of the week later today, so we’ll have a better idea of the quarterback’s status for Sunday’s game by the afternoon.

Vikings mailbag: Waynes, Evans and a key matchup against the Bucs

Every week send any Vikings-related questions to @Andrew_Krammer and I’ll answer them here on Fridays.

A: Trae Waynes has had a rough start to his third season, getting beat on a double move in Week 1 for a 52-yard gain to Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis. Last week, Waynes gave up another big play in Pittsburgh when receiver Martavis Bryant beat him deep. Waynes didn’t get his head turned around and jumped on Bryant early, drawing a 49-yard pass interference penalty. The inconsistency is troubling, especially after Waynes showed some progression last year as a part-time starter. Now as a full-time starter, Waynes is going through some similar growing pains we saw from Xavier Rhodes in his third season, when the position coach needed to break out boxing gloves in practice to get him to stop grabbing. Despite the issues, I’d be surprised to see the coaching staff bail on playing time for Waynes this early.

A: Yes, Sam Bradford is still alive and practicing for the Vikings, albeit on a limited basis. That’s five limited practices in about 10 days since Bradford injured his knee on Sept. 11 against the Saints. The good news is he looked to have more of a bounce in his step Thursday during the few throws reporters are allowed to watch. However, the Vikings are wise to be cautious with Bradford and their hopes for the 2017 season.

A: Rhodes was strong in Pittsburgh while shadowing Steelers star Antonio Brown, helping to put a cap on an offense otherwise known for big plays. But the Vikings face a different challenge in Tampa Bay, which features two proven downfield threats in the 6-foot-5 Mike Evans and speedster DeSean Jackson. The Vikings could consider keeping Rhodes on his side to guard whichever threat is across from him. If they deem Evans the more potent Buccaneers weapon, it would make sense for the Vikings to place one of the NFL’s most physical corners on him throughout the day. The educated guess is yes, you’ll see Rhodes follow Evans for at least some of the game.

A: Tampa Bay made life difficult for the Bears last week, but Chicago and quarterback Mike Glennon didn’t help themselves much. The three opening Bears possessions ended in turnovers and the game was out of hand by halftime at 26-0, Bucs. That doesn’t put an offense in a good spot to succeed in the second half. Regardless if Bradford or Case Keenum is at quarterback, the Vikings need to control the ball and put themselves in manageable third down situations. Dalvin Cook will play a big role. Glennon had success targeting Bears running back Tarik Cohen as a receiver, finding him for 8 catches and 55 yards. If Cook can find an edge against Tampa’s talented linebackers, a big difference can be made.

A: Speaking of rough starts, left guard hasn’t been too kind to Nick Easton quite yet. Easton was flagged twice for holding in Pittsburgh and surrendered a couple pressures against a tough Steelers front. Things won’t get easier against Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who returned to practice Thursday while nursing an ankle injury. McCoy’s 42.5 sacks rank fifth among all defensive tackles since he entered the league in 2010. He was responsible for four of Tampa Bay’s eight hits on Glennon against Chicago last week. McCoy against any of the Vikings’ interior linemen — Pat Elflein and Joe Berger included — will be matchups to watch on Sunday.

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