When the Vikings took Ezra Cleveland in the second round of the draft in April, General Manager Rick Spielman said he saw Riley Reiff "holding down the fort" at left tackle until the Vikings saw what they had. But if Reiff misses his first snaps of the season on Sunday, the season finale against Detroit won't be the moment they take a look at Cleveland in Reiff's spot.
Offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak said Thursday that swing tackle Rashod Hill would start at left tackle against the Lions if Reiff, who's on the COVID-19 reserve list, isn't cleared to return. Cleveland has played eight games at right guard this year, and will stay there at Ford Field on Sunday.
"We just move on with what we've been doing," Kubiak said. "Rashod deserves a chance to come in and play. He's battled his tail off all year, done everything we've asked him to do, so Rashod will step in for Riley and we'll go from there."
The team will have a decision to make by the spring on Reiff, who took a $5 million pay cut instead of a release after the team traded for Yannick Ngakoue in August. Reiff is already set to earn a $1 million incentive for playing at least 86% of the Vikings' offensive snaps this season, and could earn another $1 million if he ends up playing at least 93.75% of their snaps. His restructured deal also includes a $5 million roster bonus if he's with the team on the third day of the 2021 league year, meaning the Vikings face a decision on the tackle no later than the first few days of free agency.
Reiff could return to Minnesota for the final year of his contract after a solid season, but that might depend on how amenable the 32-year-old is to another pay reduction.
It will also hinge on where the Vikings see Cleveland lining up in the future.
"I've been asked that a couple times and I know that'll be a question around the building a little bit," Kubiak said. "But I look at it this way — Ezra's a fine, young player. I think he's going to end up with about nine starts under his belt, which is very good. He's played really well for us. He's very athletic. I think Rick will sit down with Zim [coach Mike Zimmer] and we'll work through it and we'll decide what's best for the football team. But I think you've got a really good player and where he settles down, I think he's got a chance to settle down for a while. Been very pleased with Ezra, his work and the job [assistant offensive line coach] Phil [Rauscher] and [offensive line coach] Rick [Dennison] have done with him.
Seven miss practice again
There was no change in the Vikings' injury report on Thursday, as the same injured players who missed Wednesday's practice — linebacker Eric Kendricks (calf), defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo (chest), defensive end Jalyn Holmes (groin), cornerback Cameron Dantzler (hamstring), cornerback Chris Jones (groin) and kicker Dan Bailey (back) — sat out again.
Bailey went through stretches at the beginning of practice with a helmet on, which was more than he did Wednesday. The Vikings could bring practice squad kicker Taylor Bertolet up to kick on Sunday in Detroit if Bailey can't go, but special teams coordinator Marwan Maalouf was holding out hope Bailey would be ready.
"It's one of those things where you kind of have to wait. It's still a little early in the week, even though it's Thursday," he said. "We can kind of revisit that a little bit later in the week. If I talked to you then, I could probably give you a better answer. He's been taking care of it."
Running back Dalvin Cook, who remains away from the team following the death of his father, James, earlier this week, won't play on Sunday.