After a week of practices, including two full sessions Thursday and Friday, Mackensie Alexander said he’s “confident” he can play despite a right elbow dislocated Sept. 8 against the Falcons.
Alexander, the Vikings’ slot cornerback, is still listed as questionable Sunday against the Bears despite saying he’s content with his nearly three-week recovery. He returned to practice this week with a brace on his right elbow.
“It feels good, been working extremely hard,” Alexander said Friday.
The Vikings coaching staff plans to give both Alexander and cornerback Mike Hughes reps as the nickel cornerback, according to coach Mike Zimmer, should Alexander be available Sunday. Alexander, who is in a contract season, injured his elbow on his 21st snap in Week 1.
“I want to play,” Alexander said. “We’re going to see what it’s like, but I’m very confident.”
Hughes saw a generous workload (37 snaps) last week in his return nearly 11 months after injuring multiple ligaments in his left knee. Hughes said he’s feeling good after removing his knee brace for this week of practices. He plans to play without it Sunday in Chicago.
“I feel more explosive without it,” Hughes said.
Barr set to return
Linebacker Anthony Barr’s return gives the Vikings defense “a lot of flexibility,” according to Zimmer. Barr, a leading member of the Vikings’ blitz schemes, returns Sunday in Chicago after he was sidelined against the Raiders by a groin injury. He fully practiced Thursday and Friday.
The Vikings will be without linebacker Kentrell Brothers (wrist/hamstring), who was downgraded from full to limited to sidelined throughout three practices this week. Defensive backs will step up to replace Brothers, the Vikings’ leading special teams player (57 snaps) in three games.
‘I’ll be careful with it’
Zimmer said he’ll be cautious with the red challenge flags on pass interferences after receiving film of each call that has been reviewed so far. “They’re not overturning many,” said Zimmer, who is 0-for-1 on such challenges this season. Five pass interferences were called in Thursday night’s Packers-Eagles game, including one overturned by replay.
“Unless it’s really egregious,” Zimmer said, “I’m probably not going to throw it just because — even if it is, it’s hard to tell.”
Receiver Laquon Treadwell carries a $3.1 million cap hit between two contracts, according to a source with access to NFLPA salary data, but the Vikings should receive a salary cap credit for the one-year, league-minimum deal he re-signed this week. His previous rookie deal had offset language for the $1.15 million he was already owed.
Punt returner Marcus Sherels’ return comes on a one-year deal costing $531,177 against the Vikings’ salary cap. Sherels counts less than his prorated $766,000 salary this season because of a minimum salary cap benefit created to urge teams to sign veterans with high minimum salaries.
Bears banged up
Four Bears, including kicker Eddy Pineiro (knee), are listed as questionable to play against the Vikings. Defensive tackle Akiem Hicks (knee), tight end Trey Burton (groin) and guard Kyle Long (hip) are also questionable. Hicks and Long were unable to practice Friday.
Bears receiver Taylor Gabriel (concussion) and defensive tackle Bilal Nichols (hand) have been ruled out.
Star Tribune writer Ben Goessling contributed to this report.