Brian O’Neill, D.J. Wonnum among those back at Vikings practice after COVID false positives
All players on the Minnesota Vikings’ 53-man roster took part in practice Thursday
After some false positives on COVID-19 tests on Wednesday, all players on the Minnesota Vikings’ 53-man roster took part in practice Thursday.
All four players who missed practice on Wednesday for what the team called “not injury related” issues were full participants Thursday. That includes starting right tackle Brian O’Neill and starting defensive end D.J. Wonnum, who both were confirmed to have had false positive COVID-19 tests on Wednesday.
Also returning were nickelback Mackensie Alexander and reserve tight end Chris Herndon.
“All we heard was that he tested positive for COVID, but I don’t know,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said when asked about Alexander. “A lot of crazy things going on this year; you never know what to expect day-in and day-out. … But we’re happy to have them back.”
Head coach Mike Zimmer was not available for comment Thursday, but all the players who missed practice Wednesday are expected to play Sunday against Green Bay
Wonnum and O’Neill both tested positive on Wednesday before testing negative later in the day. Both tested negative on Thursday morning and were cleared to practice. A source said Wonnum is fully vaccinated and has never had any symptoms.
Also Thursday, the Vikings activated linebacker Ryan Connelly off the COVID-19 reserve list and he took part in practice on a limited basis. He was placed on the list Nov. 8 and missed last Sunday’s 27-20 win at the Los Angeles Chargers.
The Vikings have had eight players placed on a COVID-19 list over the past two weeks. Four remain out: defensive end Kenny Willekes and safety Josh Metellus on the 53-man roster list, and guard Dakota Dozier and fullback Jake Bargas on the practice squad list.
Also limited in practice Thursday were linebacker Anthony Barr (knee), cornerback Bashaud Breeland (groin) and guard Wyatt Davis (ankle). Barr sat out against the Chargers but Zimmer said Monday he was “hopeful” he will play Sunday.
Centers of attention
Vikings offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak did not reveal Thursday who will start at center against the Packers.
Garrett Bradbury was activated Wednesday off the COVID list after missing two games and ending a streak of 39 straight starts. Mason Cole played well in his stead and Zimmer said Monday it was uncertain who would start against the Packers.
“Both those guys are getting reps this week,” Kubiak said. “We’ve got to bring Garrett back along; he missed a couple weeks of football. But both those guys are getting action right now.”
It didn’t take long for Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson to learn what the rivalry with the Packers is all about. He faced Green Bay twice last season as a rookie, with each team winning once.
Jefferson saw similarities in the rivalry to what he experienced in college at LSU.
“You can feel the energy around here when we play the Packers,’’ he said. “Just the natural rivalry, the hatred that we have from both teams. I went to LSU, we played Alabama, we played Florida, we played those type of teams week in and week out. I live for these type of games.”
Special-teams coordinator Ryan Ficken said “a lot of great things” happened on Dede Westbrook’s 45-yard punt return against the Chargers. He pointed to the blocking and Westbrook’s speed. “I thought he was going to break it,” Ficken said. … With Harrison Smith expected to start Sunday after missing two games while on the COVID list, co-defensive coordinator Adam Zimmer said Minnesota could use some packages with three safeties: Smith, Xavier Woods and Camryn Bynum, who played well while starting for Smith. … Packers coach Matt LaFleur lauded Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen, who turns 34 next month and has five sacks this season. “He looks like a very young version of himself,’’ he said.