Two Vikings players were voted onto this year's Pro Bowl roster, and for the first time since coach Mike Zimmer's first season in 2014, the selections won't include a defender.
Running back Dalvin Cook and receiver Justin Jefferson were the only Vikings players on the initial all-star roster announced Monday night. But this year's exhibition was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. No game means no alternates, and the fewest Vikings on a Pro Bowl roster since none were picked in 2014.
Cook leads the NFL with 1,833 yards from scrimmage with a workload that could set a Vikings franchise record. It's his second straight Pro Bowl honor. Cook's 1,484 rushing yards are already the fifth-highest, single-season mark in Vikings history, and he needs just 38 yards to move past Robert Smith's 1,521 in 2000 for third most.
"Dalvin's unreal," tight end Tyler Conklin said Monday. "Just what he can do with the ball in his hands. He can make something out of nothing. I mean he makes you look good as a blocker. All you got to do is get in position and he makes you right most of the time."
Jefferson, the first-round pick out of LSU, earns the recognition in his first season – a day after breaking Randy Moss' rookie receptions record. He has turned 73 grabs into 1,182 yards and seven touchdowns, despite not starting the first two games of the season. He is also the first Vikings rookie receiver since Moss to be named to the Pro Bowl.
Safety Harrison Smith's run of five straight Pro Bowls, which started as an alternate in 2015, comes to an end. Linebacker Eric Kendricks, who has missed the past three games with a calf injury, was putting together an an all-star season before going down.
Harris 'enjoying the moment'
Safety Anthony Harris is entering what could be his final two games for the Vikings after playing this season out on the one-year franchise tag. He's also the only Vikings defender not to miss a snap for that injury-riddled side, and said he's not trying to look too far ahead to free agency this spring.
"I'm just enjoying the moment," Harris said. "Anytime you get the opportunity to get on the field, it's great. Being in the locker room, going through the experience with the guys that I've been here with for a number of years, as well as trying to help the younger guys progress with their game."
Conklin breaking through
Conklin, the 2018 fifth-round pick out of Central Michigan, waited until his 45th NFL game to catch his first touchdown pass — a 20-yard catch and run against the Bears. Conklin carried a couple Bears defenders into the end zone, adding to what has been a strong couple months with increased playing time amid injuries to Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith Jr.
"It's my third year and I felt like it was kind of starting to haunt me a little bit," Conklin said. "I hadn't gotten into the end zone yet, and to finally make that happen [Sunday] kind of felt great. I felt like a weight was off my shoulders."
Reiff close to recouping $2 million
Left tackle Riley Reiff has a couple million reasons to stay on the field during the Vikings' final two games. Reiff is on track to recoup $2 million of the $5 million pay cut he took in August when General Manager Rick Spielman needed to fit defensive end Yannick Ngakoue under the salary cap.
In the new deal, Reiff agreed to playing-time incentives awarding him $1 million for reaching 86% playing time and another $1 million for hitting 93.75%. He's one of four Vikings to play all 923 snaps on offense, joining quarterback Kirk Cousins, guard Dakota Dozier and center Garrett Bradbury.