The Vikings returned from the bye week Monday facing a long climb from the NFC North’s cellar and a stretch of three divisional games that starts Sunday in Green Bay.
Coach Mike Zimmer insisted Monday that the Vikings aren’t focusing beyond this year despite trading away their leading pass rusher after a 1-5 start.
“It’s the same every year [at the trade deadline]. We’re not looking to 2021,” Zimmer said via videoconference. “What we’re looking to do is what is the best thing to do for our football team, this year and moving forward.”
Receiver Adam Thielen said he wasn’t shocked by the Ngakoue trade.
“You know things like that are going to happen through a season, especially with the start we had,” Thielen said. “[But] we trust the guys upstairs, this coaching staff, and all that are involved in doing what’s best to help this team win games. That’s where our focus is.”
Knowing the Vikings could trade more players and dump salary before Nov. 3, the locker room is trying to look inward, according to Thielen.
“It’s just so far out of our control,” he said. “How we prepare, how we take care of our bodies, the mind-set we come into this building every single day with, those are the things we can control. “That’s what kind of the message is in our locker room right now, ‘Hey, let’s just focus on us. Let’s try to prepare to win a football game on Sunday and let’s not worry about anything else.’”
Elflein, Dye return to practice
The Vikings get a couple reinforcements at practice post bye week as right guard Pat Elflein and linebacker Troy Dye were designated to return Monday, meaning the team has started a 21-day window during which Elflein (thumb) and Dye (ankle) can practice before needing to be activated from injured reserve or shelved for the season.
Elflein has missed five games since tearing a ligament in his thumb during practice after the Week 1 loss to the Packers. Dye, the fourth-round rookie out of Oregon, injured his ankle during the Week 2 loss in Indianapolis.
The Vikings’ deadline to activate Elflein and Dye is Monday, Nov. 16, when they’re scheduled to play the Bears in Chicago.
Drawing Thielen’s attention
After a bye week in which he watched football as a spectator, Thielen was asked which NFL receivers he enjoys observing most. The second name mentioned was Seahawks receiver D.K. Metcalf.
While Metcalf only had two grabs for 23 yards in the Sunday night loss to Arizona, Thielen applauded Metcalf’s effort to chase down Cardinals safety Budda Baker nearly 100 yards on an interception return and prevent a touchdown.
“When they show the all-22, or the wide view, of right when the interception happened and him taking off was pretty impressive,” Thielen said. “The most impressive thing is a lot of guys wouldn’t have even gone after him like that right away. It just shows his character of how much he cares about the game and saved his team seven points.”
As injuries persist, the Vikings filled two roster spots with cornerbacks, promoting Mark Fields from the practice squad and claiming Chris Jones, a third-year player out of Nebraska, off waivers from the Detroit Lions. Three Vikings corners — Mike Hughes (neck), Kris Boyd (hamstring) and Holton Hill (foot) — are currently dealing with injuries.
Jones, an undrafted player signed by the Lions in 2018, has spent much of his early NFL career with the Arizona Cardinals, where he deflected six passes in 14 games (three starts). He re-signed with Detroit’s practice squad last month, and was waived on Saturday.