Promising Viking to Miss Final Stretch of Season

Kevin O'Connell

Getty Former Vikings Super Bowl quarterback Joe Kapp died at the age of 85 on Monday, May 8, 2023.

The Minnesota Vikings are proceeding with caution when it comes to rookie Akayleb Evans.

The fourth-round cornerback suffered his third concussion since joining the team in the team’s win over the New York Jets. Evans pleaded on social media that he was fine. He was taken by surprise when head coach Kevin O’Connell ruled him out for this week’s matchup with the Detroit Lions.

“News to me,” Evans tweeted (and later deleted) on Monday, December 5, in response to media reports that he would be out on Sunday.

The Vikings have given Evans’ situation more consideration and decided to place him on the injured reserve list, forcing Evans to miss the next four games of the season, per a team release.

“Before Akayleb plays again, we want to make sure it’s 100% the right timing for him,” head coach Kevin O’Connell said on December 5 after ruling Evans out for Week 14, per ESPN.

Evans, who started two games earlier this season, is eligible to return to practice in time for the team’s season finale against the Chicago Bears.

“It’s a possibility that we’ll have him possibly rejoin us,” O’Connell added on December 7, per ESPN’s Kevin Seifert. “It’s a daily watch by us as an organization making sure that one of our young players we feel very strongly about… feels like we’re wrapping our arms around him and helping any way we can.”

Meanwhile, starting cornerback Cam Dantzler was elevated to the active roster after a four-game stint on the injured reserve list due to an ankle injury. Tight end Ben Ellefson was also elevated with Dantzler but relegated back to the list the next day with Evans.

Kevin O’Connell Addresses Vikings LT Christian Darrisaw’s Return

With the return of defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson and the expected arrival of Dantzler, the only major missing contributor is left tackle Christian Darrisaw.

Darrisaw has been in concussion protocol for the past two weeks after suffering a head injury against the Dallas Cowboys — just four days after landing in protocol after taking a hit in Week 11 against the Buffalo Bills.

O’Connell left Darrisaw’s status this week in the air. The second-year star that is the No. 2-graded tackle by Pro Football Focus (PFF) this season was not seen at the media available portion of practice on Wednesday but was scheduled to take part in walkthroughs.

“Once Darrisaw clears protocol, O’Connell said, ‘we’ll have a conversation when that time comes about his availability for this week and moving forward,’ ” Seifert reported.

Kirk Cousins has seen the second-most pressures (187) in the league this season, per PFF, and is likely waiting with bated breath for the return of his starting left tackle. Backup Blake Brandel has allowed six sacks this season.

Kevin O’Connell Sees Irv Smith Jr., T.J. Hockenson Playing Together by the Season’s End

After Irv Smith. Jr. went down with a high ankle sprain he suffered in Week 8 against the Arizona Cardinals, his time with the Vikings was considered over.

Minnesota traded for fellow 2019 draftee T.J. Hockenson, who is likely due to sign a new contract at the end of the season. Smith is currently on injured reserve, but O’Connell appears confident that he could join Hockenson by the season’s end.

“O’Connell said he thinks the Vikings will get TE Irv Smith Jr. back from IR before the end of the season, and is looking forward to using him alongside T.J. Hockenson.,” Seifert reported.

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