Elite Vikings Starter Questionable, ‘Struggling to Walk,’ Insider Says

Kevin O'Connell

Getty Former Vikings Super Bowl quarterback Joe Kapp died at the age of 85 on Monday, May 8, 2023.

Minnesota Vikings center Garrett Bradbury has been a revelation in a contract year.

However, his status for Week 15 and beyond is uncertain.

Bradbury landed on the injury report this week with back issues, and it doesn’t sound good.

“I was told that back is pretty messed up. At times even a few days ago he was really struggling to walk,” KSTP’s Darren Wolfson reported on December 15.

Bradbury has been limited in practice all week and was seen taking snaps with Kirk Cousins. He is listed as questionable for Saturday’s matinee against the Indianapolis Colts.

If Bradbury can’t go, Austin Schlottmann will be in line for starting snaps on Saturday.

Vikings’ Garrett Bradbury Among Top 10 Centers in NFL

Bradbury, in the final year of his rookie deal, is undoubtedly the team’s comeback player of the season.

After the Vikings chose to not exercise Bradbury’s fifth-year option, the former first-round pick was largely considered a lame duck at his position. Minnesota was “active” in exploring trades for a replacement in the offseason amid a “disastrous” training camp by Bradbury.

Bradbury finished the 2021 season ranked the 29th-best center in the league by Pro Football Focus (PFF). He ranked 38th in pass protection among 40-graded centers who played a minimum of 20% offensive snaps with a 43.7 pass-blocking grade last season.

However, Bradbury has bucked his trend downward and emerged as a top-10 center in the league. He ranks 10th among eligible centers with a 70.2 offensive grade by PFF.

While Bradbury has always been a reliable run-blocker, his greatest improvement has shown in his pass-blocking. Bradbury had never posted a PFF pass-blocking grade above 43.7 in his career. This season, it’s a respectable 68.1 through 12 games played. He’s allowed just two sacks all season.

Bradbury still has shortcomings in his game, but he’s a far cry from the liability he’s been the past two seasons.

Christian Darrisaw Returns After 3-Week Absence

A significant reason the Vikings struggled to sustain drives in last week’s loss to the Detroit Lions was the absence of Bradbury and starting left tackle Christian Darrisaw.

Both linemen are exceptional run-blockers and without them, the Vikings mustered just 22 rushing yards on 17 attempts. Too many stops on early down proved to be drive killers with the Vikings facing third-and-long often. In turn, the defense was stranded as the Lions dominated time of possession.

But with Darrisaw expected to be back to face the Colts on Saturday, Minnesota should see a considerable boost, especially in the run game. The Vikings average 4.67 yards per rush with Darrisaw on the field, compared to 2.88 in his absence, per The Athletic’s Alec Lewis.

“With Darrisaw on the field, the Vikings are averaging 4.76 yards per rush and 1.35 yards per carry before contact. With the left tackle on the sidelines, those numbers shrink to 2.88 yards and 0.71 yards,” Lewis wrote. “[Dalvin] Cook listened as Darrisaw answered questions about his health as he tried to return from a concussion. Between answers, Cook said, ‘I miss the big man.’ Consider the correlation between Darrisaw’s absence (early in the game against Dallas) and the Vikings’ rushing regression, and that makes sense.”

Good news, the big man is back.

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