The Vikings again had no positive COVID-19 cases from an additional two rounds of testing — Thursday’s PCR tests and Friday morning’s point-of-care tests — and practiced Friday before they were scheduled to depart Saturday for a game in Houston the next day.
The Titans had another two players test positive on Friday morning, bringing their total of cases to 14 since Saturday. The Vikings aren’t in the clear in testing through at least this weekend, according to their athletic trainer and infection control officer Eric Sugarman, who said, “Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday are critical days for us” given how long it can take COVID-19 to appear on a test.
Despite losing a practice this week with the facility closed Tuesday and Wednesday, coach Mike Zimmer said two extended practices went “pretty well” with plans to expand the final touches during Saturday’s on-field work.
“I’m really proud of the way they handled things,” Zimmer said. “There hasn’t been, really, any complaining. We’ve obviously had to do a lot of extra things that we don’t normally do — point-of-care contact test, our normal testing, then you’ve got to sit in your car and wait until you get to go into the facility. We’ve had to adjust schedules at times, but they’ve handled it really well.”
The Vikings will be the only NFL team given PCR and point-of-care tests this Sunday under new NFL guidelines for teams with infections or in recent close contact with infected persons. Players also have to wear masks in practice, which can include a face shield, and all team meetings have to be conducted virtually.
The Titans’ game against Pittsburgh on Sunday was postponed and rescheduled for Week 7.
Hunter gets second opinion
Defensive end Danielle Hunter has not been seen on the Vikings practice field rehabbing this week. The star defender revealed on his Instagram account that he’s been in New York, and Zimmer clarified Hunter is getting a second opinion on the reported cervical spine disc herniation that has kept him off the field since Aug. 14.
There is no sign of Hunter returning to the field any time soon, even though he was eligible to return to practice this week off injured reserve after missing the first three games.
“I have not heard. I haven’t talked to him,” Zimmer said Friday when asked how Hunter’s second opinion went. “I don’t think anyone else has — since he’s been there. I don’t even know if he’s seen a doctor, yet.”
Cook trusts RB rotation
Running back Dalvin Cook had a career-high 181 rushing yards in Sunday’s loss to the Titans. But he was off the field near the end of the third quarter, when the Vikings went three-and-out between Tennessee touchdown drives that turned a 24-12 lead into a 25-24 deficit.
Asked how tough that was watching from the sideline, Cook said: “It’s not rough. Deuce [Alexander Mattison] is a guy that’s ready to take on whatever Coach throws at him. And he got drafted to come make plays and to come play. He didn’t get drafted to just sit behind me and not be ready for the big moments.”
Dantzler set to return
Rookie cornerback Cameron Dantzler, who missed the past two games because of a rib injury suffered in Week 1 against the Packers, practiced fully Friday and has been cleared to play Sunday in Houston.
Meanwhile, cornerback Mike Hughes (neck) has been ruled out for the second straight game after being unable to practice this week. Cornerback Kris Boyd (hamstring) is listed as doubtful to play against the Texans after playing through his injury against the Titans.
Cheering section for Jefferson
There won’t be just Texans fans among the 13,300 people allowed into NRG Stadium for Sunday’s game. Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson will have five family members — including his parents, John and Elaine, and his older brother Jordan — planning to make the trip from Louisiana to Houston to cheer on the Vikings rookie.
This will be the second time in four games the Vikings have played in front of fans, including 2,500 at Indianapolis.
“Finally, my family is able to come to this week’s game,” Jefferson said. “That’ll be a little interesting for them to see my first — well, for them my first NFL game. I’m a little excited for that to happen.”