Receiver Adam Thielen, and cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes and Mike Hughes were limited participants in Wednesday’s practice, a sign all three players could be available Sunday for the Vikings in Los Angeles.
Rhodes, who exited Sunday’s win against Detroit in the third quarter after injuring his right ankle, said he liked his chances of playing against Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.
“I’m getting better each day,” Rhodes said Wednesday. “It’s looking good.”
Hughes, recovering from a hip injury against the Lions, and nose tackle Linval Joseph (knee) were also limited. The only Vikings player unable to practice Wednesday was running back Alexander Mattison, who emerged from a career-high 16 touches against the Lions with a knee injury.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins has not played a complete game with his full complement of skill players since the Vikings’ Oct. 13 win against Philadelphia, a week before Thielen injured his leg in Detroit. Cousins talked as if he expects Thielen to play Sunday against the Chargers. Thielen is not scheduled to speak with reporters until Thursday.
“With Adam coming back,” Cousins said, “they have to defend more and it keeps defenses honest.”
Coach Mike Zimmer said he was thankful NBC recently decided to exercise its “flex” option and move the Vikings’ kickoff against the Chargers out of “Sunday Night Football,” in favor of the Bills and Steelers — two current AFC playoff teams. Night kickoffs further strain West Coast road trips, and Zimmer has tinkered with different approaches over the years as Vikings coach.
This year, Zimmer decided on later departures to Seattle and Los Angeles, including this Saturday for Sunday afternoon’s game.
“In the past, we’ve gone out a couple of days early,” Zimmer said. “I didn’t want to do it on the Monday night game [in Seattle], because you’re sitting around the hotel another eight hours or something. We’ve adjusted the schedule a little bit, but I think just get our work done here, go out there, get up and play the game and go.”
‘Let’s go right now’
Running back Dalvin Cook joked he’d rather leave earlier and practice in Los Angeles, where the high temperature was 61 degrees warmer than Minneapolis’ forecast high Wednesday of 7 degrees.
“Let’s just go there to L.A. right now,” Cook said. “It’s about 2 degrees outside. It’s cold, but nah we’re ready. Minnesota’s cold, man, but we’re going into some warm weather and a great atmosphere. They’re just playing in that [temporary home] stadium for now, but it should be a good turnout. We should see a lot of Vikings fans.”
Defensive end Danielle Hunter, leading the Vikings with 12½ sacks this season, was named NFC defensive player of the week on Wednesday for the second time in his career. Both honors have come after home games against the Lions, whom the Vikings beat on Sunday while Hunter had three sacks in the first half.
Hunter, who became the NFL’s youngest player to reach 50 career sacks, was also named NFC defensive player of the week after last year’s home game against Detroit. In that win, Hunter had 3½ sacks and a 32-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
Practice squad swap
The Vikings swapped backfield depth on the practice squad this week by waiving fullback Johnny Stanton, the former UNLV quarterback, and signing running back Tony Brooks-James, the 5-9, 190-pound rookie out of Oregon who has spent time with the Falcons, Buccaneers and Steelers.
Brooks-James, a teammate of Vikings receiver Dillon Mitchell at Oregon, was active for three games with the Steelers this season. He had eight carries for 7 rushing yards.