Rookie safety Camryn Bynum played nine defensive snaps in seven games before Sunday's loss in Baltimore, where he woke up expecting to be a reserve for the eighth time. Bynum ended up playing all 98 defensive snaps – the longest marathon coach Mike Zimmer said he's been a part of in his 28 NFL seasons – while replacing safety Harrison Smith in the starting lineup.

"Right before breakfast," Bynum said Monday. "My coach called me, probably 10 minutes after I woke up and told me, 'You're up today.'"

There's no surprise this week that Bynum, a former Cal cornerback drafted in the fourth round, will get every practice to prepare as the starter for Sunday against the Chargers. Smith isn't expected to play after testing positive for COVID-19 on Sunday morning. League protocols require a 10-day minimum isolation for unvaccinated players.

Now Bynum will focus mainly on the position he'll play. Entering the Ravens game, Bynum was mostly working as safety Xavier Woods' backup, but stepped in for Smith and finished with 12 combined tackles and an interception.

"For him to come in there and, for the most part, understand exactly where he has to be and what he has to do, I thought was good," Zimmer said. "He did a nice job in some of the run support things he had to do. He'll continue to get better from there."

The Vikings practiced against scouted looks with Ravens tight end Mark Andrews running the deep seam route against two-deep safety coverage, which they ran when Bynum read Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson's eyes and undercut the pass for his first NFL interception.

"It was the craziest feeling ever," Bynum said. "Didn't feel real, just cause it still hasn't hit me that I'm in the NFL. I don't know that it ever will."

Five players on COVID list

The Vikings now have five players isolated on the reserve/COVID-19 list as linebacker Ryan Connelly and tackle Timon Parris were added Monday. They join center Garrett Bradbury and guard Dakota Dozier, both away from the team since Thursday due to positive tests or close contacts, and Smith. Smith and Bradbury tested positive.

"I hate to see our players miss games, obviously. I also hate to see them with the possibility of being possibly sick," Zimmer said. "I know Garrett was vaccinated. It's frustrating, but at the same point, the players that are not vaccinated, I think they've made their decisions on what they're going to do and there's really no sense fighting it with me. They are going to do what they are going to do."

Bradbury is eligible to return for this Sunday's game against the Chargers because he's vaccinated. League protocols require him to be symptom-free and produce two negative tests taken a day apart.

Letting the playmakers play

The five catches for 75 yards and a touchdown combined by receivers Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen in Baltimore amounted to one of their least productive days in a season and a half together. They've never had fewer catches in a game together. Quarterback Kirk Cousins was mostly unable to find them in key spots, an issue Thielen said came from multiple angles.

"There's so many factors that lead into it," Thielen said. "You've got to get open, the quarterback has to read, has to have the right coverage for you to get the ball. You've got to have enough time for the play called. There's a lot of factors, so I think we kind of ran into every single one."

'Try to get a couple shots'

One issue getting extra attention inside TCO Performance Center this week is the offense's hiccups after a takeaway. The Vikings have come away with just three points off the last four defensive takeaways in losses against the Ravens and Cowboys. They have just 26 points off 13 opponent turnovers — including on downs — this season.

"We've been talking about that as coaches," Zimmer said. "How we can try to create some energy when that happens and maybe try to get a couple shots in there as opposed to just making it everyday, normal football."