Receiver Adam Thielen is the only Vikings player on the reserve COVID list after guard Dru Samia was cleared to return on Wednesday.
The team activated Samia, ending the second-year guard’s quarantine after 10 days, or the minimum stay required for symptomatic cases. Samia tested positive Nov. 15, according to a league source, and was held out of games against the Bears and Cowboys.
Samia, once a starter at right guard, returned from an ankle injury earlier this month and was a backup behind rookie Ezra Cleveland.
Cleveland is dealing with an ankle injury of his own, leading to Brett Jones’ start against the Cowboys. Cleveland remained sidelined at Wednesday’s practice. Quarterback Kirk Cousins said they’ll still need Jones, who could start again Sunday against the Panthers.
“[Jones] has quietly in the background been doing a great job for us for two and a half years,” Cousins said. “Every single day on the scout team, as a reserve coming in at center or guard, so no surprise there. Just proud of the way he played. We’re going to need him to keep it up.”
Samia was the second known positive test in the past month for the Vikings, including linebacker Todd Davis. But coach Mike Zimmer made it sound like Thielen was the third, saying he’s unsure whether the Vikings receiver can be cleared in time for Sunday. If Thielen is positive and asymptomatic, he can be cleared by kickoff if he registers two negative tests taken 24 hours apart within five days of his positive test.
“I don't know, honestly,” Zimmer said. “Obviously, he's in the COVID protocol, and we'll just see. When you get in these protocols, it's always about, 'What's the next test, and the next test?' So we'll just have to see as the week goes on.”
Receivers coach Andrew Janocko did not attend Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys and was not with the team at the start of Wednesday’s practice. When asked about Janocko and juggling coaching duties, Zimmer said assistant coaches quarantined “have not been sick,” allowing work to continue remotely. Coaches, players and any employee is required to quarantine if someone in their household tests positive, or they’re deemed a “close contact” in another way.
"It's happened a couple of times," Zimmer said. "It adds to other guys' duties that they have to do, responsibilities. Fortunately, the ones that have missed have not been sick, so they're able to do a lot of things virtually still. If these guys got really ill and sick and couldn't do things, then obviously it would make it more difficult. But we have a plan in place if I get [coronavirus] or whoever gets it."