What were the Vikings doing 48 hours before taking on Drew Brees in Sunday's NFC wild-card game in New Orleans?

Announcing that their top two slot corners — Mackensie Alexander (knee) and Mike Hughes (neck) — won't be playing Sunday and that Hughes was heading to injured reserve two days after fully participating in Wednesday's practice.

In other words …


With his team already a 7½-point underdog, coach Mike Zimmer was asked for his new level of concern now that a safety (Jayron Kearse) and a rookie (Kris Boyd) are left to man the Saints' slot receivers.

"We will find a way," he said.

Asked essentially to elaborate, Zimmer set his jaw and said, "I just said we'll find a way."

Brees, meanwhile, is the NFL's accuracy leader for a single game (96.7%), a single season (74.4%) and a career (67.6%).

And, oh yeah, he's also sporting a career-high 116.3 passer rating and was the NFL's least-pressured (24.9%) quarterback this season, according to Pro Football Focus.

The Vikings also have second-year pro Holton Hill, but he's primarily an outside corner who will back up starters Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes.

If the Vikings feel they need more help at corner, they do have two rookies — Nate Meadors and Mark Fields — on the practice squad.

With the Vikings thin at corner early in the season, Meadors saw action in two games while Fields played in one.

What's with Hughes?

Hughes went from full practice participation on Wednesday to limited on Thursday to season-ending injured reserve on Friday. So it's pretty obvious something not so good happened to his neck on Wednesday.

Zimmer said he wasn't hurt in practice. Then, asked how he got hurt, Zimmer said, "Playing football."

Defensive lineman Ifeadi Odenigbo (hamstring) was listed as questionable. Everyone else on the injury report, including linebacker Eric Kendricks (quad) and running back Dalvin Cook (shoulder), is expected to be at or close to full strength.

Sherels back … again

Marcus Sherels, the boomerang player the Vikings can't move on from, returned Friday for his third stint with the team.

"It's been a whirlwind, but it's been a lot of fun," said Sherels, signed to handle punt returns with Hughes going on injured reserve.

"Everything has kind of come full circle, but I'm back here and ready to help the team out."

The team's career punt return leader left for New Orleans via free agency after last season. But he was beaten out by rookie Deonte Harris, who went on to make first team on the Associated Press' NFL All-Pro team.

Sherels returned to Minnesota and averaged 5.5 yards on six punt returns in Weeks 4-6. He was released and signed by Miami, where he averaged 3.8 yards on six punt returns in five games before being released.

"I've been back in Minnesota, celebrating the holidays," the former Gopher and native Minnesotan said. "I've only been out [of the league] a week or two, so I'll be ready."