Vikings fourth-round draft pick Kene Nwangwu will return kickoffs in his NFL debut Sunday night, special teams coordinator Ryan Ficken said Thursday.
Nwangwu replaces Ameer Abdullah, who was averaging 23.1 yards on seven returns before being released and signing with Carolina. Ihmir Smith-Marsette is averaging 20.8 yards on four returns but has been battling a toe injury.
Nwangwu was having a strong training camp when he suffered a knee injury on the preseason's opening kickoff.
Asked what he likes about Nwangwu, Ficken said: "Obviously his speed, how electric he is with that. But the way he handles himself in pressure situations, as much as we could in practice, just excited to see him go out there and kind of cut it loose a little bit."
Extra incentive for Woods
Vikings safety Xavier Woods came from the Cowboys via free agency. He would have returned to Dallas except, he said, "I guess they didn't want me back, to be blatant."
Extra incentive for Sunday night?
"Most definitely," Woods said.
Vikings headquarters has been abuzz with people talking about how smart Woods is.
What say you, Xavier?
"Yeah," he said, "I'd say I'm a smart guy."
Smart enough to defer to his elders when asked about the intelligence level of the Vikings' safety duo of him and Harrison Smith.
"We're both smart guys," Woods said. "Obviously, I would say he's smarter than me."
Pierce, Westbrook still out; Ellefson to IR
Tight end Ben Ellefson (knee/foot) was moved to injured reserve while nose tackle Michael Pierce (elbow) and receiver Dede Westbrook (ankle) remained sidelined for Thursday's practice. Pierce and Westbrook went through stretching but then left the field.
Linebacker Anthony Barr (knee) was a full participant after being limited on Wednesday. Receiver Adam Thielen (foot) and running back Alexander Mattison (shoulder) were full participants again.
For the Cowboys, quarterback Dak Prescott (calf), cornerback Trevon Diggs (ankle), tackle Tyron Smith (ankle) and defensive end Dorance Armstrong (ankle) were limited again on Thursday.