Center Garrett Bradbury has credited veteran teammate Brett Jones for helping sharpen his knowledge of the game. On Sunday, Bradbury will start next to Jones for the first time with right guard Ezra Cleveland ruled out against the Cowboys because of an ankle injury.
Jones, a 29-year-old former CFL draft pick, last started an NFL game in 2018 and will make his first start at guard since 2017. He will be the fourth Vikings offensive lineman to start at right guard this season, joining Cleveland, Dru Samia and Pat Elflein.
“Brett is ready to go,” Bradbury said Friday. “He’s one of the smartest players I’ve been around. When he’s not playing, he almost wears the hat of being kind of a coach because he knows so much about defenses and about schemes. Brett is going to do an awesome job.”
Jones practiced as the first-team right guard this week, ceding some reps to backup tackle Oli Udoh as coaches prepared him to play if needed. The Vikings have just seven available offensive linemen; NFL rules require eight to be active among the 48 players on gameday.
A roster move is required for another offensive lineman, whether through a standard gameday elevation from the practice squad or activating Samia from the COVID-19 reserve list. Offensive lineman Aviante Collins could be a likely gameday promotion.
Jones, who has played more center than guard in the NFL, is the latest change to an offensive line that was finding a rhythm with Cleveland, a second-round pick out of Boise State. Cleveland didn’t practice all week after playing through an ankle injury suffered in the first series against the Bears.
“Brett knows a lot, so I’m going to lean on him when I need to,” Bradbury said. “Try to play the same way we have been with the same kind of unity and communication. Obviously, I’m going to use him when I need to and when questions come up, but he’s just as good at guard.”
Tight end Irv Smith Jr. (groin) and cornerback Cameron Dantzler (concussion) are listed as questionable to play, although Dantzler practiced Friday. Fullback C.J. Ham, placed on the COVID-19 list Thursday, can be cleared by kickoff, according to coach Mike Zimmer, if he continues to test negative. The Vikings announced Friday that receivers coach Andrew Janocko “will be unable to attend” Sunday’s game.