Tight end Rhett Ellison cleared another major hurdle in his attempt to return from a major knee injury when the Vikings on Tuesday activated him from the physically-unable-to-perform list, clearing him to return to practice.
The 27-year-old tore his right patellar tendon eight months ago in the division-clinching victory over the Green Bay Packers in the 2015 regular-season finale. Patellar tendon injuries are typically tougher to overcome than ACL tears.
During training camp practices, Ellison often was spotted working with an athletic trainer on an otherwise-empty practice field. The Vikings brought him along with them to Cincinnati even though he could not participate in the joint practices with the Bengals, which suggested he would return soon.
Ellison did Tuesday and even got snaps with the first-team offense.
"Rhett's worked extremely hard," coach Mike Zimmer said. "Rhett is a great kid, a team guy through and through. It's nice to get him back on the field."
Ellison showed some quickness after catching a third-down pass in team drills, and when he blew by a group of reporters on his way inside after the practice.
The Vikings re-signed the unheralded blocking tight end to a one-year deal worth up to $1.75 million this spring. But they also used a sixth-round draft pick on David Morgan, who had impressed while assuming the Ellison role.
His emergence and Ellison's return could mean the Vikings start the season with four tight ends, including Kyle Rudolph and MyCole Pruitt, on their 53-man roster.
Starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and veteran backup Shaun Hill both actually threw passes in individual and team drills during Tuesday's practice, something neither of them did during Saturday and Sunday's workouts.
Bridgewater was held out of a drill in which the quarterbacks chucked deep balls, presumably to protect his throwing arm. And in team drills he didn't appear to attempt any passes that traveled more than 15 yards past the line of scrimmage. Some of the shorter throws he made noticeably lacked a little velocity.
But the fact that Bridgewater was back throwing was an encouraging sign.
Zimmer would not say whether Bridgewater will play in either of the team's two remaining preseason games. But he does not think it would be a big deal if Bridgewater is unable to play again during the preseason.
"He's played an awful lot of games. It's not like he's a first-year rookie," Zimmer said. "We're going to continue to do what we think is best."
Hill, meanwhile, did not appear to have with any limitations after he did not participate at all in Saturday and Sunday's practices. He completed a pair of deep balls to wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson in team drills Tuesday.
O-line still shuffling
Zimmer said after Tuesday's practice that left tackle Matt Kalil "has been as good as any of the offensive linemen we have right now." But for the second consecutive session, the Vikings only had Kalil for a little while.
Kalil, who limped off the field midway through Sunday's practice, participated in drills early in Tuesday's session. But after a few snaps in an 11-on-11 running period, Kalil bowed out, ditched his helmet and did not return.
So second-year tackle T.J. Clemmings got the rest of the first-team reps at left tackle, making it six different offensive line combinations for the top offensive unit in the past five practices, spanning back to last Monday.
Running back Matt Asiata practiced after sitting out Saturday and Sunday.
Cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who injured a hamstring during Thursday's preseason win against the Seattle Seahawks, missed his third straight practice. Defensive tackle Scott Crichton and safety Anthony Harris remain sidelined.
Backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke no longer is in the walking boot that was required after foot surgery. But his return does not appear to be imminent.