Both Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith Jr. did not practice on Wednesday, prompting the Vikings to poach another tight end off the Indianapolis Colts practice squad.
The Vikings are set to sign Hale Hentges to the 53-man roster once the 24-year-old tight end clears coronavirus protocol, the Pioneer Press’ Chris Tomasson reported. Hentges, however, will likely not be available in time for Sunday’s pivotal matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Athletic’s Zak Keefer confirmed the signing on Wednesday night as Hentges terminated his practice squad contract with the Colts.
Rudolph suffered a foot injury in the Vikings’ 27-24 overtime win over the Jacksonville Jaguars last Sunday, while Smith has missed three of the past four games due to groin and back injuries. Tight end Brandon Dillon was placed on the practice squad injured reserve with an ankle injury, leaving only Tyler Conklin available during Wednesday’s practice.
Smith was elevated to limited in Thursday’s practice as signs point to him playing on Sunday.
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Hentges Shined in Limited Action His Rookie Year
Hentges, who was Smith’s tight end partner at Alabama, was a team captain for the Crimson and served largely as a blocking tight end, helping Alabama’s sixth-ranked rushing offense. Hentges went undrafted in 2019 due, in part to his low offensive stats in college, and came on as a surprise at Colts training camp.
Buried beneath Eric Ebron, Jack Doyle and Mo Alie-Cox, who caught five passes for 111 yards against the Vikings in Week 2, Hentges did not make the 53-man roster was claimed off waivers by the Washington Football Team. He proved to create separation in a limited capacity as a receiver, catching eight passes for 103 yards and a touchdown in four starts and 11 games played.
Hentges made Washington’s practice squad this season but was waived on Sept. 17. The Colts picked him up for a second stint with the team five days later.
A source said Vikings assistant offensive line coach Phil Rauscher, who was Washington’s offensive line coach last season, raved about Hentges and played a key role in having him come to Minnesota, per Tomasson.
Several Colts fans were upset with Hentges departure, who seemed to be more of a buried prospect under a deep tight end group in Indianapolis.
As a colts fan you just got a steal frfr
— KINGzIWI (@IwiKin) December 10, 2020
Several Other Vikings Land on Injury Report
Thursday’s injury report was one of the longest of the season as the Vikings are looking to get healthy or give some rest with four weeks left in the season.
Eric Kendricks has yet to practice with a calf injury that he tweaked in warmups against the Jaguars. Alexander Mattison, who had surgery for appendicitis last Saturday, did not practice along with Rudolph.
Offensive linemen Garrett Bradbury (abdomen), Ezra Cleveland (ankle) and Riley Reiff (ankle) were all limited in practice — likely a rest day for the group — while rookies Jeff Gladney and D.J. Wonnum also were limited participants in practice. Wonnum was out against the Jaguars with ankle and back issues, while Gladney suffered a calf injury and exited last Sunday’s game early.
Brett Jones was listed as a full participant in practice and would likely take the place of Bradbury or Cleveland in the event neither interior lineman can go on Sunday.
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) December 9, 2020
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Trevor Squire is a Heavy contributor covering the Minnesota Vikings and journalism graduate from the University of Minnesota — Twin Cities. Connect with him on Twitter @trevordsquire and join our Vikings community at Heavy on Vikings on Facebook.