Receiver Justin Jefferson anticipates another "tough battle" in a rematch with the Lions on Sunday, but different results after he was held to a career-low 14 yards the last time he faced Detroit in the Vikings' Sept. 25 win.

"I have the film from the first time y'all did it, I mean, I'm not trying to let that happen again," Jefferson said Thursday. "We know what they're trying to do and we know they're not trying to let me get in open space. We got something for it. That's all I got to say."

Lions cornerback Jeff Okudah, the 2020 third overall pick, followed Jefferson through stretches of the game as the spearhead of Detroit's aggressive man-to-man coverage that often featured additional help. Quarterback Kirk Cousins eventually leveraged the Lions' extra attention on Jefferson with back-to-back 28-yard throws to receiver K.J. Osborn in a game-winning drive.

But Cousins had just 204 yards on 38 throws entering that final drive.

"They challenged us quite a bit in the passing game," offensive coordinator Wes Phillips said. "Trying to be physical, trying to let Okudah use his length, and they had some success in there. They also had eight penalties."

The Lions defense hasn't been flagged as much recently, but Detroit was penalized eight times (three declined) for illegal contact in coverage during the last matchup. Phillips revealed that after the Week 3 win the Vikings sent more plays to the league office that they suspected should've also been flagged, and the league agreed on some.

"There's a lot of hidden yardage there in penalties," Phillips said. "I don't know if they were OK with that or not, but we certainly expect to be challenged [again], particularly on third downs."

Hunter, Ham still sidelined

Three of the five Vikings players with non-COVID illnesses returned to practice Thursday, the only padded session ahead of Sunday's game in Detroit, but two — edge rusher Danielle Hunter and fullback C.J. Ham — remained sidelined. Safety Harrison Smith was limited in his return; cornerback Patrick Peterson and safety Theo Jackson were full participants. Asked about the starting defenders, coordinator Ed Donatell said he didn't expect any to miss Sunday's game.

"It's an ongoing thing. It's out in the public," Donatell said. "We learned all this through the last two years about how you can have people available or not. ... But we got time. We'll have everybody ready."

Left tackle Christian Darrisaw (concussion) and center Garrett Bradbury (back) remained limited. Darrisaw continued to wear a red non-contact jersey while working his way through the concussion protocol.

Defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard was still sidelined by a biceps injury suffered against the Jets.

'Let's see some ownership'

Matt Daniels, the 33-year-old first-time special teams coordinator, said one of his primary focuses is getting players — often the roster's younger players on special teams — to resist "the urge to be on autopilot" as the weekly routine can become monotonous. Daniels said one way he's livened up meetings is to put a player in charge.

"I'm a big proponent of let's see some ownership from you guys," Daniels said. "So I'll allow a guy like [long snapper] Andrew DePaola to run a punt meeting or allow a guy like [safety] Josh Metellus to run a punt meeting just to see how does he respond? Is he seeing the same thing I'm seeing?"

Bench production

Edge rusher Patrick Jones II — the second-year reserve — is coming off a productive outing against the Jets. The 2021 third-round pick played versatile roles in 20 snaps, holding the edge with three run stops and moving around the line as a pass rusher with one sack. Jones said increased comfort in the new defense, in which he's a stand-up outside linebacker, is showing on the field.

"I feel good," said Jones, who is fourth in the rotation behind Hunter, Za'Darius Smith and D.J. Wonnum. "They've asked me to move around. They've asked me to use my vision and my football intelligence and it just allows me to just diagnose stuff and just play fast."


  • Running back Dalvin Cook was named one of eight finalists for the NFL's Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award, the league announced Thursday. Cook was selected as one of four NFC finalists by a panel of former players, including Curtis Martin and Larry Fitzgerald Jr.
  • Ham and his wife, Stephanie, announced Thursday the Ham Family Scholarship Fund, which will support children of color in the Duluth and Superior areas starting next year.