Running back Dalvin Cook has been ruled out for the Vikings and his backup, rookie Alexander Mattison, is listed as questionable to play against the Packers on Monday night.
Mattison, who sprained his ankle Dec. 8 against the Lions, was a limited participant in Saturday’s practice for the first time since suffering the injury. Mike Boone, the second-year running back, is expected to make his first NFL start if Mattison is sidelined Monday.
“I was able to get out there, move around and get some plays in,” Mattison said Saturday. “I’ve been working ever since the injury to get healthy and this is just another step. We’ll see how it feels.”
During the open portion of practice, Mattison continued his rehab with strength coach Mark Uyeyama before rejoining Boone, Ameer Abdullah and fullback C.J. Ham and jogging lightly through drills. Abdullah, who has 19 touches for 109 yards and a touchdown this season, said he’s anticipating a larger role.
“As a group specifically we work hard every day to prepare for this kind of situation,” Abdullah said.
A home game before Christmas Eve was an early present for nose tackle Linval Joseph, who said he’s planning a surprise birthday party for his mother, Ernestine Johnson, and looking forward to spending time with his 4-year-old daughter Elani after Monday night’s game.
“With my situation, I get my daughter every other holiday,” Joseph said. “This year, she’s with me, and I think she’s excited. I just can’t wait to see her and get to spend time with my family. With this job, there’s a lot of pros and cons, but one con of it is you don’t get to see your family.”
Watch and learn
The Vikings defense’s 27 takeaways, ranking fourth, has been fueled by watching the thievery of other NFL defenses this season, according to defensive coordinator George Edwards.
“We’ve been showing them different turnovers around the league,” Edwards said. “Just making a concentrated effort that once we get there and we got the guy wrapped up, to go after the football. I think our pass rush being able to strip the ball off some of the quarterbacks has been huge. I think tips and overthrows, all those things we’ve tried to emphasize.”
Rookie cornerback Kris Boyd, the seventh-round pick out of Texas, leads the Vikings with 259 special-teams snaps. Special teams coordinator Marwan Maalouf said he’s seen substantial growth from Boyd.
“An unbelievable guy,” Maalouf said. “He’s come a long way for a rookie. He’s bought into it since really Day 1.”