Running back Ty Chandler will be a "featured" part of the Vikings offense moving forward, head coach Kevin O'Connell said Monday, after Chandler's breakout game in Cincinnati.

In his first NFL start Saturday, Chandler had a career-high 132 rushing yards — the most by a Vikings player under O'Connell — and apparently earned a featured role regardless of running back Alexander Mattison's health. Mattison started 13 games before suffering an ankle injury Dec. 10 in Las Vegas.

"What that looks like moving forward as far as who gets the first touch of the game and all those things, we'll continue to kind of work through, based upon what we're attempting to do schemewise," O'Connell said. "But there's no question that we have confidence in Alex, but I think Ty has done a lot of great things and will continue to do so and will hopefully be a huge reason why we're able to have success offensively down the stretch."

O'Connell commended how Chandler, the 2022 fifth-round pick, handled a career-high 55 snaps that included strong pass blocks, three catches for 25 yards and more.

"It's just all of the different aspects that I think Ty brings to the table and his comfort level while also having a major role in the special teams phase as our personal protector," O'Connell said. "I'm not sure if I'm faking it twice this year in big situations if Ty Chandler's not the guy with the ball in his hands."

Mattison is considered "day to day," according to O'Connell, who said he didn't know whether the running back would be able to practice or play this week after sitting out Saturday. Mattison could return to a reduced role after Chandler's breakout game.

"Ty is exactly where we want him to be in his progression," O'Connell said, "and I think the role he's ascending to is something we had our minds on when we brought him here, and we'll continue to do everything to get him valuable touches and make him a big part of our offense."

Hicks to practice this week

Linebacker Jordan Hicks will return to practice this week — just five weeks after he underwent emergency leg surgery Nov. 12 to alleviate dangerous swelling from compartment syndrome. The team's hope is Hicks can play again this season.

O'Connell said Hicks, the 31-year-old team captain, is "the heart and soul as far as leadership goes on our defense alongside [Harrison Smith], Danielle [Hunter], Josh Metellus." Hicks was leading the team in tackles when he was injured.

"He can be an extension of [Brian Flores] out there as far as getting the call, the checks, the alerts, the communication to all 11 guys," O'Connell said. "You feel ultimately the most comfortable when you've got a veteran presence like Jordan who has total ownership of what we're doing."

O'Connell said he didn't know whether right tackle Brian O'Neill (ankle) and receiver Jalen Nailor (concussion) would be ready to practice Wednesday. Defensive tackle Jonathan Bullard will "hopefully" be ready to play Sunday after suffering an ankle injury in Cincinnati.

'Respect for guys like that'

Bengals quarterback Jake Browning made headlines after Saturday's game by yelling that the Vikings shouldn't have cut him in 2021 under former General Manager Rick Spielman. But it wasn't all hard feelings against his former team. There are many Vikings employees who respect Browning, perhaps none more than his former roommate Garrett Bradbury.

The Vikings center returned to Eagan this weekend with Browning's Bengals jersey after the two talked and swapped uniforms at Paycor Stadium. Browning went undrafted in 2019 and waited until his fifth season to be active for an NFL game. Now he's got three straight wins.

"I hate that he had to do it to us, but you have a lot of respect for guys like that," Bradbury said. "I mean, this is his first accredited season. He didn't have one before this — Year 5. I know what he's capable of, and I think the world is starting to wake up to that."

Context for Browning's ire: Bradbury said coaches told Browning after 2021 training camp that he won the No. 2 job. But Spielman's front office kept third-round rookie passer Kellen Mond on the active roster and signed Sean Mannion to the practice squad instead of Browning, who landed on Cincinnati's practice squad later that week.


The Vikings opened as 3.5-point underdogs against the Lions. Oddsmakers are expecting points. The game's 46.5-point total trails only Cowboys-Dolphins in Week 16.