The Vikings’ inside offensive line will change again on Sunday against the Rams as lineman Mason Cole, who started the last seven games at center and right guard, was placed on injury reserve on Friday.
Cole did not train this week after suffering an elbow hyperextension while playing 64 snaps against the Bears on Monday night. Head coach Mike Zimmer called it a “three-week injury,” indicating Cole could return if they advance to the playoffs.
Oli Udoh could replace Cole in right guard against the Rams, but Zimmer didn’t reverse the team’s plans when asked on Friday. Coaches are waiting to see if they will have receiver Adam Thielen (ankle) or full-back CJ Ham (hamstrings). Both are listed as questionable against the Rams after limited practice Friday.
“Probably ready to see some Udoh [on Sunday]Coordinator Klint Kubiak said Thursday. “Oli has been great for us this year. I can’t tell you how important he was to us, he’s able to move around and play a lot of spots. He keeps getting better every week. “
Running back Dalvin Cook has already been ruled out after testing positive for COVID-19 this week.
Udoh started 11 games at right guard before moving on to left tackle as an injury replacement. When rookie tackle Christian Darrisaw returned from an ankle injury last week, coaches kept Cole on guard against Udoh. Guard Dakota Dozier, promoted to the practice squad this week, is also an option.
Cole, 25, was acquired via trade from the Cardinals in the last offseason as he entered the final year of his rookie contract. He is expected to become an unrestricted free agent in March.
The Rams will have all starters available, a week after isolating up to 29 players on the reserve / COVID-19 roster. LA’s last isolated starter tight end Tyler Higbee was cleared to return on Friday.
Patterson is not available on Sundays
Andre Patterson, the Vikings’ co-coordinator and defensive line coach, has tested positive for COVID-19 and will not be able to train against the Rams on Sunday, according to Zimmer. Assistant defensive line coach Imarjaye Albury will handle in-game substitutions and lead Patterson’s position.
Patterson, 61, is symptomatic and “struggling a bit,” according to Zimmer, who said her longtime friend and colleague was receiving medical treatment but was not hospitalized.
“I hope our defensive line plays its back for him,” Zimmer said.
He is the last Vikings assistant coach ruled out by NFL COVID protocols, with senior assistant Paul Guenther and defensive back coach Karl Scott having missed games before.
“I have the big paw on it”
Special teams coordinator Ryan Ficken had some ups and downs on the punches against Chicago, which resulted in changes leading up to Sunday. According to Ficken, not only will rookie running back Kene Nwangwu be No.2 behind Alexander Mattison, but he’ll replace someone in punt protection after a Bears defenseman snuck between linebacker Blake Lynch and safety Myles Dorn to deflect a punt, according to Ficken.
Earlier in the game, defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson broke through the Chicago punt team and secured a rare block for the Vikings.
“I got the big paw on it and was able to get a deflection,” Ficken said. “They do a great job all year round. I always told them it’s only a matter of time before we get one.”