3 Key Vikings Starters’ Status in Question Ahead of Packers Matchup

DJ Wonnum

Getty Vikings starting defensive end D.J. Wonnum (98) has conflicting COVID-19 tests that put his status for Week 11's matchup with the Packers into questions.

The Minnesota Vikings‘ COVID-19 conundrum continues.

While several players, including Harrison Smith and Garrett Bradbury, returned to team activities this week after a recent scourge of the virus, four players are in danger of landing on the COVID-19 reserve list and potentially missing Sunday’s border battle with the Green Bay Packers.

Starting defensive end D.J. Wonnum and right tackle Brian O’Neill tested positive, then negative for COVID-19 on Wednesday, forcing the two starters to sit out practice, KSTP’s Darren Wolfson reported.

Starting slot cornerback Mackensie Alexander and tight end Chris Herndon were also given the same “non-injury related” absence from practice that Wonnum and O’Neill received, signaling that Alexander and Herndon may have also produced positive tests on Wednesday.

Five players between the 53-man roster and practice squad are currently on the COVID-19 reserve list.

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Potential False Positives

There is encouraging news coming out of Wolfson’s report that the Vikings are confident the team gathered false positive tests on Wednesday.

“I’m told Brian O’Neill tested positive this morning but then tested negative a couple hours later. He was held out of practice. He’ll undergo another test tomorrow. We’ll wait and see what that test says, but there is a level of confidence the original test was a false positive,” Wolfson said on the Climbing the Pocket podcast.

“Same with D.J. Wonnum. I’m waiting to hear back on Mackensie Alexander and Chris Herndon. I can tell you from several different sources I was told many hours ago there were four false positives.”

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Pioneer Press beat writer Chris Tomasson reported that a source said, “Wonnum is fully vaccinated and that he was feeling fine and had no symptoms.”

The Vikings’ defensive end depth has diminished following Danielle Hunter suffering a season-ending torn pectoral injury.

Kenny Willekes, who was activated to add depth to the group and tallied a sack against the Baltimore Ravens, is currently on the COVID-19 reserve list along with the following players: safety Josh Metellus, linebacker Ryan Connelly, fullback Jake Bargas and guard Dakota Dozier, who was hospitalized last week due to the virus.

Thursday should determine whether the four players in question this week will be available.

Bradbury Not Guaranteed Starting Spot This Week

When the Vikings activated Bradbury off the COVID-19 reserve list on Tuesday, coach Mike Zimmer wasn’t ready to announce Bradbury as the team’s starting center in Week 11.

Instead, the Vikings will assess Bradbury’s health and backup Mason Cole‘s recent play to determine who will start.

“We’ve had that conversation; we’ll just have to see this week in practice. Bradbury hasn’t been here in two weeks,” Zimmer said Tuesday, per Vikings.com. “We’re just going to have to sort it out this week. But Mason’s done a really nice job. He’s done a terrific job. We’ll just try to figure this out. It’s better than having no options.”

Cole has produced a 68.8 offensive grade by Pro Football Focus, ranking 15th among centers in his limited time on the starting offensive line. Meanwhile, Bradbury has struggled with a 56.2 offensive grade, ranking 45th of 58 graded centers.

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