With center Pat Elflein still on the physically-unable-to-perform list and left guard Nick Easton lost for the season, the Vikings made a deal on Sunday to give themselves another option in the middle of their line.
They gave up a 2019 seventh-round draft pick for 27-year-old Brett Jones, a league source said. Jones, who must pass a physical exam before the trade is official, started 13 games for the New York Giants last year — 12 at center after Weston Richburg was lost to a concussion and one at left guard. The Canadian Football League product had been battling for the starting center job with Jon Halapio, who had started all three preseason games for the Giants.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said Elflein is not likely to practice in the final week of the preseason, but Zimmer added he doesn’t think Elflein will need to begin the season on the physically-unable-to-perform list.
Still, the addition of Jones gives the Vikings another option in case Elflein isn’t ready, or they need a versatile backup — and it doesn’t hurt that Jones has been playing for former Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, whose offense bears plenty of similar tenets to Minnesota’s scheme.
Elflein, who had offseason ankle and shoulder surgeries, has been on the active PUP list through the Vikings’ offseason program, training camp and the preseason, as he continues to rehab from his offseason operations. That has kept him from doing any on-field work with new quarterback Kirk Cousins or practicing with an offensive line that will have two new starting guards this season.
Zimmer said Elflein “is going to practice when he’s ready to go,” adding, “I don’t know when that’s going to be.”
The Vikings will have to make a decision by Saturday afternoon about whether to put Elflein on the reserve PUP list for the beginning of the season or add him to their 53-man active roster. If Elflein starts the season on the PUP list, he would not be able to practice for the first six weeks of the regular season.
Still the student
Safety George Iloka still has his notes from his 2012 rookie season, when Zimmer first indoctrinated him into the NFL with Cincinnati. That has helped Iloka’s light-speed transition with the Vikings. Still, Zimmer said he’s trying to “change back” some of Iloka’s techniques that changed during their four years apart.
“Things he’s taught me carried me through my career, even when he was gone,” Iloka said. “Sometimes almost bumping heads with other coaches, like, ‘No when we put this in — Zim said this.’ ”
‘Nice pass, nice catch’
Cornerback Xavier Rhodes turned to Sunday’s practice official, his palms to the sky, wondering how receiver Laquon Treadwell didn’t get called for offensive pass interference. No dice.
Treadwell caught the deep ball over Rhodes from Cousins, showing another glimpse of the third-year receiver’s progression in the Vikings offense.
“It was a nice pass, nice catch,” Rhodes said. “He’s coming around from his rookie year to now, running great routes coming out of his breaks.”
Running back Mike Boone leads the Vikings with 139 rushing yards this preseason. In turn, Boone is the leading candidate for the No. 3 running back spot heading into Thursday night’s preseason finale against the Titans.
His competition is on the mend, as Roc Thomas returned to 11-on-11 drills during Sunday’s practice and looks in line to play. Mack Brown, who was limited Sunday, could also return to action Thursday.
“He’s a guy that is really versatile,” Zimmer said of Boone. “Can catch the ball, has good feet and made some really good cuts. He continues to show pretty well.”
Cornerbacks Mike Hughes, Mackensie Alexander and Marcus Sherels were among the nine Vikings players sidelined during Sunday’s practice.
Hughes (undisclosed) and Alexander (ankle) haven’t practiced since the Aug. 18 preseason loss to Jacksonville. Sherels (hamstring) pulled up at the end of Friday’s win against the Seahawks and did not return to the game. Also held out were receivers Chad Beebe, Stacy Coley and Tarvarres King and linebacker Devante Downs (foot).
Good news is defensive end Everson Griffen (left leg) did more in Sunday’s practice, even taking part in 11-on-11 drills with the defense. He should be ready to go for the Sept. 9 opener.
Staff writer Andrew Krammer contributed to this report.