The Vikings kept kicker Dan Bailey on the roster Monday, but the head coach stopped short of saying whether the former Pro Bowler will keep his job for Sunday's crucial game against Chicago.
Bailey had a career-worst four misses — three field goals and an extra point — during Sunday's 26-14 loss in Tampa Bay. He's made just three of his last 10 kicks including three misses against Jacksonville a week earlier.
Coach Mike Zimmer continued to defend Bailey, whose streak of 35 straight games without missing back-to-back field goal attempts ended Sunday, while leaving the door open for a replacement such as practice squad kicker Tristan Vizcaino.
"You have to look at history. You have to look at past performances. You have to look at the person," Zimmer said. "[Bailey] is a solid kid. What did he hit, 28 in a row from September '19 to October or something like that? I have to take all of that into consideration, as well. Honestly, I love the kid. If we end up making a change, then it's about just what we feel at this particular point in time. We're in the performance business and these last two weeks have not been good."
Bailey did indeed have a recent hot streak, connecting on 25 field goals in a row between September 2019 and September 2020, including 3-for-3 in last season's playoffs. Zimmer said he plans to speak with him on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Cutting Bailey would leave the Vikings with just the 24-year-old Vizcaino, who signed three weeks ago and has never kicked in an NFL game. Trying to bring in a kicker on short notice is difficult given the COVID-19 protocols that require five days of testing to clear any free agent.
Zimmer previously second guessed the Vikings' abrupt move to cut rookie Daniel Carlson after three misses in his second NFL game in 2018. He didn't rush to that conclusion with the 32-year-old Bailey.
"If I cut everybody that made mistakes [Sunday], we'd all be out of here, including me," Zimmer said. "We'll go with our gut and do what we believe and believe that whichever decision we make is the right one. It's all you can do."
The Vikings will turn in "a bunch of things" to the league, according to Zimmer, including a couple officiating decisions made in Tampa Bay. Zimmer lamented the helmet-to-helmet flag on safety Harrison Smith during a Bucs touchdown drive. Linebacker Todd Davis was the first NFL defender flagged for pass interference in at least the last 20 years during a Hail Mary in the last five seconds of a half, according to ESPN, which led to a Bucs field goal.
Davis, the former Broncos leading tackler who has started the last two games for Eric Kendricks (calf injury), said he was surprised to see the flag.
"Yeah, I was," Davis said Monday, "but it was thrown. I gotta do better on my technique. I gotta be better. I can't fault them for throwing it, that was their decision. I can't leave it in the ref's hands."
Davis is among six linebackers to start for the Vikings this season, making four starts since signing Sept. 24 as part of the team's response to Anthony Barr's season-ending injury. He overcame a positive COVID test in November and has emerged as a full-time player while Kendricks recovers.
"I've had my struggles, had my ups and downs, but I'm going to continue to keep rolling, continue to keep working hard," Davis sad. "Being able to start these last two weeks has been a blessing."
Receiver Tajae Sharpe's disappointing Vikings tenure ended Monday after 13 games — only four active — as he's been waived. Sharpe, the ex-Titans receiver, signed a one-year, $1 million deal in free agency and was released after no catches on three targets in just 28 snaps of offense.
The Vikings waived Sharpe to make room for tight end Hale Hentges, signed off the Colts practice squad last week. Hentges cleared entry protocols for COVID testing and provides depth while Kyle Rudolph (foot) and Brandon Dillon (IR/ankle) are on the mend.
In addition, running back Khalfani Muhammad, a 2017 seventh-round pick by Tennessee, signed to the practice squad.