What has been a breakout season for Minnesota Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks appears to be over. He missed yet another practice again on Thursday, and it is unlikely he will play in Sunday’s season finale against the Detroit Lions.
The 28-year-old has missed the past four games with a calf strain. He tweaked the injury during warmups for the Dec. 6 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. After missing that game, he hasn’t played since.
Other players who missed Thursday’s practice were cornerbacks Cameron Dantzler (hamstring) and Chris Jones (groin), defensive ends Jalyn Holmes (groin) and Ifeadi Odenigbo (chest), and kicker Dan Bailey (back).
If both Dantzler and Jones are inactive for the season finale, the Vikings likely will have to start rookies Jeff Gladney and Harrison Hand on the outside. If Bailey is inactive, the Vikings will promote practice-squad kicker Taylor Bertolet.
Additionally, running back Dalvin Cook was not at practice and will miss Sunday’s game after the death of his father this week.
With receiver Justin Jefferson a mere 47 receiving yards away from breaking the franchise rookie record set by Randy Moss in 1998, offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak wouldn’t go so far as saying he will tailor his game plan specifically to let him chase the record.
“We will stay focused on playing good against the Lions,” Kubiak said. “Obviously we’re going to have some new faces in the backfield with Dalvin not being here. We send all our prayers and thoughts to Dalvin and his family. Let’s just go be us, and usually when we’re us, Justin makes some plays. So hopefully that’ll continue this week.”
With veteran tight end Kyle Rudolph now on injured reserve, fellow tight ends Irv Smith Jr. and Tyler Conklin will get one last chance to prove themselves in the season finale. Both have performed extremely well in Rudolph’s absence, making the veteran rather expendable heading into next season.
“You miss the leadership from Rudy,” Kubiak said. “He’s a leader around this building and with this team, and all of a sudden when he’s not out there in certain situations and stuff, we can sense that. I think the guys miss him from that standpoint. I think it’s going to be good in the long haul for Irv and Conk that they’re getting all of these snaps under their belt moving into next season.”
Andre Patterson and Adam Zimmer are wrapping up their first season as co-defensive coordinators. While the defense hasn’t performed up to its potential this season, both coaches have enjoyed working together despite the struggles.
“I think it’s gone very smooth,” Adam Zimmer said. “We’ve done a nice job of working together, and we’ve done a good job organizing the way we game plan and all that. Everything as far as the behind-the-scenes stuff has worked smoothly, and it’s been good for us.”