Center Pat Elflein will start for the Vikings on Thursday night, according to coach Mike Zimmer, giving their offensive line a new look heading into a matchup against the Rams’ vaunted defensive front.
Elflein has not started since he broke his ankle during January’s NFC Championship Game loss at Philadelphia. He said he came away “happy with” his 22 snaps off the bench in place of Brett Jones during Sunday’s loss to Buffalo, with the second-year pro’s only major miscue an off-target shotgun snap leading to a Kirk Cousins fumble.
Elflein said his road to finally starting in Week 4 was “frustrating” at times while recovering from offseason shoulder and ankle surgeries. The 2017 third-round pick out of Ohio State wore a brace on his left shoulder against the Bills.
“It was tough, because I wanted to be in there as soon as I could,” Elflein said. “But also got to make sure I’m healthy as well. You have to find the right balance between that. But yeah it was tough, but I’m feeling great right now.”
Elflein’s return is a welcome one for a Vikings’ front that allowed Cousins to be pressured on more than half of his dropbacks against the Bills, according to Pro Football Focus.
“At times it was really good, at times we had maybe one guy and the other four guys are fine,” Cousins said. “There’s other times I’m holding onto it too long and putting them in a tough spot.”
The Vikings could be without left tackle Riley Reiff, who missed practice Tuesday because of a foot injury. If Reiff is out, they likely would start Rashod Hill at left tackle and rookie Brian O’Neill at right tackle against a Rams defensive line featuring both Ndamukong Suh and Aaron Donald.
“It’s always appreciated when you’re talking about it from a defensive standpoint,” Los Angeles coach Sean McVay said of the Suh-Donald pairing. “And it’s a nightmare when you’re looking at it from an offensive standpoint.”
Cook, Morgan practice
Running back Dalvin Cook was a limited participant in Tuesday’s practice, which is a good sign for his availability Thursday. Cook did not practice or play last week after injuring his hamstring in overtime at Green Bay.
“Still day-to-day,” Cook said. “We’ll see how I feel Thursday.”
Tight end David Morgan also returned to practice Tuesday, wearing a brace on his left knee. He was limited. Morgan, the blocking tight end, is one of the offense’s best at moving defenders for the run game.
Sherels remains sidelined
Reiff, defensive end Everson Griffen and punt returner Marcus Sherels remained sidelined during Tuesday’s practice. Griffen is not with the team as he undergoes a mental health evaluation.
Sherels’ injury to his ribs could again lift rookie corner Mike Hughes into the role of punt returner. Hughes muffed a punt return against the Bills and needlessly went after a downed punt that had, fortunately for the Vikings, been blown dead by officials.
First female duo to call game
Broadcasters Hannah Storm and Andrea Kremer will become the first female duo to call an NFL game on Thursday night, doing so as an audio option for Amazon Prime Video’s livestream of the Vikings and Rams, Amazon announced Tuesday.
Storm and Kremer will provide coverage of 11 “Thursday Night Football” games throughout the season. Prime Video customers can also listen to the Fox broadcast, a Spanish-language broadcast and a broadcast team from the United Kingdom.
• Former Vikings center Josh Andrews was re-signed Tuesday to the Eagles practice squad. After spending camp in Eagan, Andrews left the Vikings with an injury settlement.
• Jedd Fisch will help McVay handle clock management during Thursday’s game as a Rams senior assistant coach. Fisch served as Gophers offensive coordinator in 2009.