Minnesota Vikings rookie Akayleb Evans learned why they call his new teammate the “Hitman.”
The fourth-round pick, in his second start this season, was on the receiving end of some friendly fire in the Vikings’ win over the New York Jets.
Evans took a vicious hit from Harrison Smith that forced Evans to go to the sidelines for the next play. He returned for one more snap before Minnesota held him out the remainder of the game.
Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell, erring on the side of caution with Evans’ past tenure in concussion protocol, ruled the rookie out for Sunday’s matchup against the Detroit Lions, per ESPN’s Kevin Seifert.
Evans is in good spirits and but was a bit blindsided by being ruled out. After word spread on social media that he had been ruled out, Evans tweeted, “News to me.”
However, he did have some fun on Twitter with his teammates in the secondary with Smith’s hit not being the first he felt from his own team.
Vikings Akayleb Evans Says Harrison Smith, Cam Bynum Owe Him Dinner
After the 27-22 win over the Jets, Evans tweeted that Smith and fellow starting safety Cam Bynum owe him dinner for hitting him on Sunday.
The often stoic Smith replied with a fitting response, “This seems reasonable.”
As a young player in the NFL, Evans has emerged as a reliable reserve player, taking the starting reigns after returning from concussion protocol last week.
“Before Akayleb plays again, we want to make sure it’s 100% the right timing for him,” O’Connell said, per Seifert.
Evans also collided with Bynum, which could have proved costly with the two young cover men leaving a potential interception hanging in the air early in the first quarter. Instead, New York was given another chance and tied the game at 3 with a field goal. Bynum went on to clinch the victory with a game-sealing interception.
Evans played 59% of defensive snaps before veteran Duke Shelley took his spot on defense. Shelley was signed off the street in Week 10 to help the cornerbacks room replace starter Cameron Dantzler, who landed on the injured reserve list.
Vikings Offer Encouraging Updates for Cam Dantzler, Christian Darrisaw
After injuries have hurt Minnesota at two key positions, the Vikings are trending toward full strength on their starting roster.
After missing the past four games with an ankle injury, Dantzler is eligible to come off the injured reserve list this week.
O’Connell is hopeful Dantzler will return to his starting spot opposite of Patrick Peterson, saying Dantzler “more than likely will practice fully this week.
“We should have a great chance to have Cam out there with us this week,” O’Connell added, per Seifert.
Left tackle Christian Darrisaw remains in concussion protocol after missing the past two games. He was knocked out against the Buffalo Bills and returned the next week against the Dallas Cowboys before he suffered a similar fate.
Minnesota is proceeding cautiously with Darrisaw, but he returned to practice last Friday. He still has more phases to clear before he is eligible to play.