Before halftime on Thursday, the shorthanded Vikings already found themselves down another arm.
Backup quarterback Joel Stave was battered early and often by the Los Angeles Rams, taking two sacks and five additional hits. His 18th pass fell at the feet of its intended target, and the coaching staff quickly pulled him from the game. Stave said he went through the concussion protocol and did not return in the Vikings’ 27-25 preseason finale victory.
"I'm OK, I'll be fine," Stave said.
Brad Sorensen, who was originally signed Aug. 20, was forced into action as the Vikings rested their season-opening starter, Shaun Hill. Coach Mike Zimmer alluded to a short stay for Sorensen — who was cut Tuesday, then re-signed Wednesday after Teddy Bridgewater’s season-ending knee injury — as all NFL rosters must be trimmed to 53 players by Saturday afternoon.
“[Stave] could’ve came back in,” Zimmer joked. “But I figured if [Sorensen] came in for three days, he should play.”
Bridgewater dislocated his knee, tore an anterior cruciate ligament and suffered other structural damage during a routine practice drill Tuesday.
Stave, an undrafted rookie out of Wisconsin, wasn’t given much time to audition for the backup job because of a porous offensive line. He completed nine of 18 passes for 76 yards.
“I probably have the longest neck in the NFL, so sometimes when I get hit my head will whip around,” Stave said of his injury.
An anemic Vikings offense was buoyed by three Rams turnovers just before halftime. Los Angeles’ fifth punt led to rookie safety Jayron Kearse’s fumble recovery, setting up a Blair Walsh field goal. Walsh booted another field goal after Rams rookie quarterback Jared Goff fumbled, then on the first play of the Rams’ ensuing possession, defensive end Justin Trattou tipped a Goff pass that was intercepted by a diving Toby Johnson. The Vikings took the lead off Jhurell Pressley’s 28-yard touchdown catch.
Pressley had a big game. He put the exclamation point on the victory with a 106-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the third quarter.
The undrafted rookie out of New Mexico likely would have pushed for a roster spot on another team. But the Vikings have an established backfield pecking order of Adrian Peterson, Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata, none of whom played Thursday.
“Pressley is a guy that has great acceleration, I think you saw it on the kickoff return,” Zimmer said, adding, “There’s 31 other teams that may be looking.”
Sorensen, who was 4-for-9 for 53 yards, didn’t expect to play. He got back to town Wednesday, after the team’s walkthrough.
“I understand from their perspective. I’ve been in the building less than a week, I haven’t taken many snaps, and you don’t want to go out there and make everybody look dumb, that’s the biggest thing, so I think they were kind of hesitant,” he said. “So the plan was, ‘Hey, we’ll play you if we can, but Joel’s going to get the time.’ I prepared and … they kind of simplified things for what I was able to do in the second half.”
Kearse a hit
Kearse squashed a receiver screen, wrapped up a Rams back for a loss and recovered a fumble in his first preseason start. He played alongside second-year safety Anthony Harris, who made his exhibition debut in a final push for a roster spot.
Two safeties did not suit up as veteran Michael Griffin (back) has been held out since Sunday and safety Antone Exum Jr. (knee) was placed on injured reserve this week.
• Some Vikings resting injuries did not suit up Thursday, including left tackle Matt Kalil (leg), cornerback Xavier Rhodes (hamstring), receiver Charles Johnson (undisclosed), tight end MyCole Pruitt (knee), McKinnon (undisclosed) and Griffin. No starters played for the Vikings.
• Attendance was announced at 66,262.