Vikings Starter Raises Eyebrows, Ruled Out vs. Giants Due to Personal Matter

Kevin O'Connell, Vikings

Getty Head coach Kevin O'Connell of the Minnesota Vikings.

Minnesota Vikings cornerback Cameron Dantzler‘s week-long absence from practice due to a personal matter has led to him being ruled out for the team’s first playoff game, per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.

Dantzler did not practice at all entering the Vikings’ Super Wild Card Weekend matchup with the New York Giants. Head coach Kevin O’Connell clarified Dantzler’s situation, saying Dantzler is “going through something pretty serious,” which Star Tribune reporter Ben Goessling called a “family situation.”

Dantzler started the first eight games of the season before suffering an ankle injury that forced him to miss the next four games. Duke Shelley has since taken over as the starting outside cornerback across from Patrick Peterson.

While details remain scarce surrounding Dantzler’s situation, he wrote on his Instagram story, “Appreciate my teammates and coaches for sticking by myself through this hard time.”

Starting safety Harrison Smith was limited all week with knee soreness, however, he’s good to go for the 3:30 p.m. CT kickoff at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Starting center Garrett Bradbury returns to action after missing five games with a back injury.

Vikings CB Cam Dantzler Had Turnaround Season Before Ankle Injury

Dantzler has had a rollercoaster first three seasons in the league. After a strong rookie season, Dantzler was benched by Mike Zimmer, who instead opted to roll with veteran free-agent signings in 2021.

He showed the makings of a comeback season this year. Through the first five games this season, Dantzler tallied 34 tackles, four pass breakups and a clutch fumble recovery to save a Week 5 win over the Chicago Bears — in part to a new culture under O’Connell.

“Because you know yourself,” he told Go Long TD’s Tyler Dunne. “You know how you play. Just go out there and show it. I feel like I don’t have to be a robot anymore. My first two years? I had butterflies a lot. I felt like, ‘If I mess up, I might get taken out.’ I was a robot. Now, I’m free. ‘KO’ let me be free. I can go out there with confidence and swagger like, ‘Hey, ain’t nobody catching anything on me today.’ That’s how I feel.”

Dantzler struggled even before his injury, but for a young player leaning on instinct, it’s all about momentum — and the ankle injury he suffered in Week 14 derailed his season.

Dantzler did not play in the Vikings’ season finale against the Bears due to his ankle injury.

Vikings Offense Sees Boost With Garrett Bradbury’s Return

Dealing with a lingering back injury the past month, Bradbury’s return should bring some ease to the offensive line that is already down its starting right tackle in Brian O’Neill.

Bradbury should bring a significant boost to the running game after struggles to run the ball the past few weeks. He’s the 10th highest-graded center by Pro Football Focus this season with an impressive 70.2 overall grade and 72.4 run-blocking grade.

The running games struggles were exacerbated late in the season with Bradbury and starting left tackle Christian Darrisaw out at different times beyond Week 11. O’Neil’s absence is still significant, but the duo of Bradbury and Darrisaw back in the lineup for the first time since Week 10 bodes well for the running game.

Oli Udoh will start in place of O’Neill, who suffered a torn ACL injury in Week 17.

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