Chad Greenway once again will step into a larger role for the Vikings against the Lions on Sunday.
Greenway, the 33-year-old veteran, is expected to fill in on the often-used nickel package for linebacker Eric Kendricks, who has been ruled out because of a concussion that forced him to miss practice this week.
“It changes the mentality going into a game. I’m excited,” Greenway said. “Absolutely excited to play more ball. It’s hard going in and out and only playing, sometimes, 15, 20 snaps. You’re sitting out for maybe 10 minutes, then you got to go play. You don’t feel like you’re in the flow of the game. That’s just part of the role, not complaining.”
Greenway is on pace to play 30 percent of defensive snaps after setting his career low with 59 percent last year. Greenway was relegated to playing only in the base defense shortly after Kendricks was drafted in 2015. However, like a year ago, Greenway is now called upon to do more after an injury.
“He’s always prepared and ready to go,” coach Mike Zimmer said.
Sunday will be Greenway’s 145th career start and his first 2016 opportunity to play the entire game. A tough matchup awaits him in Theo Riddick, who causes problems in the passing game. Riddick’s 34 receptions rank third among running backs, and his four TD catches leads them all.
“Obviously, we’d all rather have Eric healthy,” Greenway said. “We have to hold up our end. We’ve seen it with our offensive line, we’ve seen it with other positions where backups had to come in and play more, and that’s essentially what this is. Luckily, I have a ton of experience.”
McKinnon questionable, but Boone ruled out
Interim offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur might at least get one weapon back on offense as running back Jerick McKinnon expects to play despite being designated as questionable. McKinnon was held out against the Bears after injuring his ankle in the Oct. 23 loss in Philadelphia.
“It felt good to be out there,” McKinnon said of returning to practice. “I’m expecting myself to play.”
The Vikings will be without guard Alex Boone, who was ruled out for Sunday because of a trio of injuries, including a concussion. Boone was unable to practice all week and is also listed with shoulder and knee injuries. Jeremiah Sirles is expected to fill in for Boone at left guard, meaning the Vikings will have three opening-day backup offensive linemen starting against the Lions.
Safety Andrew Sendejo (ankle) and defensive tackle Tom Johnson (concussion) are listed as questionable after being limited in practice on Friday.
Gray gets a look
The Vikings worked out free-agent running back Jonas Gray on Friday.
Gray, 26, has appeared in 16 NFL games with three different teams. He is best known for rushing for 201 yards and four touchdowns in one game for the Patriots two years ago. He has since spent time with the Dolphins and Jaguars and worked out for the Dolphins earlier this week.
The Vikings have three running backs on their active roster between McKinnon, Ronnie Hillman and Matt Asiata.
Zimmer didn’t need the sunglasses Friday, three days after undergoing a procedure to repair a torn retina in his right eye.
Like the 60-year-old coach has done in the past with his ailing knee, Zimmer jokingly let reporters know he’s not in danger of missing Sunday’s game.
“It’s actually a little better today,” Zimmer said. “It’s a little sore, but good. They don’t have probable anymore, do they? I’m probable.”
Staff writer Matt Vensel contributed to this report.