The Vikings placed C.J. Ham on the COVID-19 reserve list Thursday afternoon after the fullback’s second day of missed practices this week, though he could return to play on Sunday against the Cowboys if he is only on the list for contact tracing reasons.
Ham played on Monday night in Chicago and practiced in full last Saturday. He had missed two days of practices with what was listed as a “shoulder/not injury related” absence. His shoulder injury was not listed on Wednesday’s injury report after Ham missed a light walk-through. The fullback was only listed as being gone for reasons unrelated to an injury.
If Ham is on the list because of what’s deemed to be a low-risk contact with someone who has tested positive, he could return in time for the game. He would have to be out for five days after his last high-risk contact, but that could still give him time to be cleared for Sunday afternoon if his daily PCR tests are negative.
Offensive lineman Dru Samia remains on the COVID-19 reserve list after being put on it Monday.
Cleveland gains stall
Right guard Ezra Cleveland missed his second straight day of practice with an ankle injury that offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak believed happened early in Monday’s game against the Bears. The fact Cleveland played the rest of the game — much of it against Chicago stalwart defensive tackle Akiem Hicks — only continued to build on the progress the Vikings have seen from the rookie since he stepped in four games ago.
Brett Jones is expected to start at guard if Cleveland can’t play on Sunday against Dallas, though Kubiak said the Vikings also have been working Oli Udoh at the position.
“Brett’s a fine player, very bright, so you’ve got two centers side-by-side [in Jones and Garrett Bradbury],” Kubiak said. “I know he’s chomping at the bit if he does get a chance to start this week, if Ezra can’t go. We’ve got a lot of confidence in him, and this team loves him. He works really hard. He’s a backup player on this team, but boy, he’s a leader. Watching him run the scout team and do all the things he does. When you see a young man like that get a chance, I think you all just root for him.”
General Manager Rick Spielman talked about Cleveland as the Vikings’ left tackle of the future when the team drafted him in the second round this spring, and had Riley Reiff not chosen to take a pay cut after the Vikings traded for Yannick Ngakoue in August, it’s possible Cleveland would be starting at left tackle now. Instead, he’s gotten off to a strong start at right guard, and Reiff has put together one of his stronger seasons in Minnesota at left tackle.
“I just think you keep going,” Kubiak said. “One thing about this league, all of a sudden when a player gets an opportunity and they play really well, they don’t come off the field, and boy has Ezra played well. He played hurt last week. It was impressive. He got hurt, I think on the first series of the game and plays the whole game against some great players and makes it through, so I think what we’re seeing from Ezra is, ‘Let’s just keep going.’ His response to where we’ve put him has been very, very good, so we’ll leave him there and let him keep going.”
On Wednesday, quarterback Kirk Cousins talked about how much more comfortable Bradbury is in his second year on the Vikings’ offensive line. That improvement, Kubiak said on Thursday, owes plenty to the fact Bradbury is seeing opponents like the Vikings’ three NFC North foes for the third and fourth time.
“Garrett’s a fine player, and he’s getting better every week,” Kubiak said. “I think one of the things you see going on right now, when you’re going to be a good player in this league for a long time and you kind of make the circles, so to speak, you play the Bears three or four times — and his career he’s probably going to play them 20 times — but he’s starting to play this defense two or three times. You can just see his growth in calling the game up front, getting us all on the same page, his confidence level playing against some of the great players in this league. We’ve got to feel really good. He’s the quarterback up front that doesn’t throw the ball.”