4 Vikings Pro Bowlers Stricken With Illness Ahead of Crucial Lions Matchup

Kevin O'Connell

Getty The Vikings have five players who are sick ahead of a Week 14 matchup with the Detroit Lions.

Five Minnesota Vikings players landed on the team’s initial injury report on Wednesday ahead of a vital Week 14 matchup with the Detroit Lions.

Defensive end Danielle Hunter, cornerback Patrick Peterson, fullback C.J. Ham and safeties Harrison Smith and Theo Jackson did not practice on December 7 due to illness, per a team release.

That’s 17 Pro Bowls worth of experience currently questionable for a game that could clinch Minnesota the NFC North division title for the first time since 2017.


Vikings In Contact With Flu-Stricken Team

KSTP’s Darren Wolfson reported on December 8 that there are no reports of coronavirus coming out of the Vikings team facilities. However, Wednesday’s lengthy injury report mirrors a flu outbreak in the New York Jets camp that had three players not practice due to illness.

Jets cornerback D.J. Reed told reporters he woke up last Sunday unable to breathe. However, he managed just fine, playing 67 of 68 total defensive snaps for New York in the loss to Minnesota.

“I woke up today, my chest was really tight, fluid in my chest. On the play I came out I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I was on oxygen the whole game. I was super, super winded on that play so I had to come out & get checked,” Reed said on December 4.

Wolfson added that he saw an assistant coach “hacking up a lung” while leaving practice on Wednesday.

“Clearly something is going around there at TCO Performance Center,” Wolfson said on the SKOR North podcast.

Outside of illness, outside linebacker Johnathon Bullard did not practice with a shoulder injury, while offensive linemen Garrett Bradbury, listed with a back injury, and Christian Darrisaw, working his way through concussion protocol, were limited in practice on Wednesday.


 Lions’ Top CB, Justin Jefferson’s Shadow, Dealing With Illness

The Vikings and Jets’ illnesses haven’t happened inside a vacuum as much of the country is coming down with a bug. The Lions had eight players not practice Wednesday, three of which were due to illness.

Starting cornerback and 2020 third-overall pick Jeff Okudah is the most noteworthy absence due to injury, with the other two players being backup wide receiver Kalif Raymond and backup quarterback Nate Sudfeld.

Okudah was the centerpiece of a plan to stop Justin Jefferson in Week 3. Jefferson had wreaked havoc on the Lions previously with 30 catches for 503 yards and one score in four games against Detroit entering Sunday. However, the Lions had the answer in Okudah, who allowed just two catches for nine yards and a 56.3 passer rating when in coverage against Jefferson, per Pro Football Focus. Okudah had some help with supporting coverage, although he was deserving of credit for jamming Jefferson and throwing off the timing of his routes in their first meeting this season.

Jefferson finished the game with just three catches for 14 yards despite a 28-24 win. It was the least productive performance of his career as Kirk Cousins looked elsewhere, completing passes to nine different players that game.

“They were doing some things schematically to take away Justin,” head coach Kevin O’Connell said in Week 3, per MLive.com. “And we’ll continue to have tools at our disposal to try to counteract that, obviously. But they did a good job defensively. I thought there were a few competitive plays that could have gone either way as far as possibly a grab or tug, the way technique-wise they were playing. But ultimately when our guys needed to they overcame that, they overcame at times us not having the cleanest execution.”

“Justin had a huge impact on this game. It just didn’t show up in the stat sheet. But that’s not good enough. I have to do a better job giving Justin different aspects of lining up in different spots, different personnel groupings, whatever I need to do to help him because he’s an ultra-competitor, and we’ll get him going. But the first guy celebrating with K.J. Osborn when he scores that touchdown is Justin Jefferson.”

Jefferson and O’Connell have grown since that game with neither of them satisfied with how Detroit took away one of the league’s greatest playmakers.

Detroit will once again test Jefferson, with or without Okudah.

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