Receiver Adam Thielen became the sixth Vikings player in the past month to be isolated on the team’s reserve/COVID-19 list, the team announced on Monday.
Thielen either tested positive or was in close contact with an infected person; based on NFL-NFLPA policy, teams don’t announce individual positive cases.
But among the six players recently put on the Vikings’ COVID-19 list, there have been two known positive cases, linebacker Todd Davis and guard Dru Samia. Only Thielen and Samia are on the list as of Monday afternoon.
Thielen, who is tested daily under NFL protocols, can still be cleared to return for Sunday’s game against the Panthers. The NFL requires a minimum five-day quarantine for high-risk close contacts and asymptomatic cases, and at least 10 days for symptomatic cases. Players can return even sooner if they’re not positive or deemed a “high-risk” close contact, as long as they test negative.
Three other players, including fullback C.J. Ham last week, have been put on the list and returned without missing game time. Samia and Davis missed at least one game.
Thielen leads the NFL with 11 touchdown catches after scoring twice in Sunday’s 31-28 loss to the Cowboys.
Amid rising cases around the country, the NFL further enhanced its COVID protocols in a memo sent to teams on Monday. Starting this week, changes include masks required for everybody on sidelines during games, traveling parties cut down to 62 players and a limit on non-coaches and players allowed in team facilities while coaches and players are present.
Franchises must designate 70 employees as “Essential Football Personnel,” who are allowed in team facilities with coaches and players throughout the rest of this season. An additional 25 employees, such as security, field care, food prep, can enter the building but must have “limited to not contact” with football personnel.
Mistakes piling up
Vikings coverage busts kept up a troubling pace during Sunday’s loss. The defense has already allowed more big passing plays of at least 20 yards through 10 games as the Vikings’ top-ranked 2017 defense in a whole season.
“We had a couple mistakes,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “A little bit had to do with these guys feeling their oats a little bit. Now they’re going to be playmakers and go out and do this and do that instead of just doing their job, and I think that showed up a few times.”
And it wasn’t just the young players. Someone looked out of place when linebacker Eric Kendricks and safeties Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris were grouped together across the field from a wide-open Cowboys tight end Dalton Schultz on the game-losing touchdown.
“From the secondary down to the defensive line and the linebackers,” Harris said, “we all kind of took turns making mistakes and maybe not being where we needed to be.”
The Vikings rank 24th out of 32 teams, allowing 36 pass plays of at least 20 yards. They haven’t finished a season worse than 10th under Zimmer.
No problems closing?
Closing out games is “not really” a concern, Zimmer said Monday. But Sunday’s loss was the Vikings’ third blown fourth-quarter lead, tying 2014 and 2016 for the most under Zimmer with six games left.
“Last three games prior to [Sunday], we closed out games defensively,” Zimmer said. “We just didn’t play well enough. Fourth and six, they made a good play on us. We gave up a 40-yard run. We didn’t play the run well enough. We weren’t tight enough in coverage [Sunday], didn’t get any pressure on the quarterback. So, all those factors combined, and it wasn’t a good day.”
Jones’ ‘business decision’ addressed
Zimmer said cornerback Chris Jones’ poor effort when he pulled up during Cowboys running back Tony Pollard’s 42-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter has been addressed.
Jones was making his second start since the Vikings claimed him off waivers last month from the Lions, but a third start might be harder to come by.
“Yeah, I had a problem with it,” Zimmer said.
A Brett Jones movie
Center/guard Brett Jones has had a busy month, making his first NFL start Sunday in two years and being featured in a newly released documentary, “Uncharted North: I Am Brett Jones,” about the 29-year-old Canadian’s path from a small town in Saskatchewan to the NFL. Jones wanted to recognize the people who make football happen in Weyburn, a town of roughly 11,000 people.
“I always think I look silly. I don’t know what my face does sometimes,” Jones said. “I think sometimes that my story is boring or whatever, but it was cool for somebody to take notice of it. It also was a cool opportunity to shed light on some people that did help me. There’s a lot of great volunteers back home. Football isn’t as big [in Canada].”
Photo credit: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune