Five of the Vikings’ six most seriously injured starters were able to finish off a week of practice without any setbacks and appear ready to play in Monday night’s game at Seattle.
The only starter listed as out on Saturday was linebacker Ben Gedeon. Listed as questionable were receiver Adam Thielen (hamstring), nose tackle Linval Joseph (knee), safety Harrison Smith (hamstring), safety Anthony Harris (groin) and defensive tackle Shamar Stephen (knee).
In the past month, Thielen has missed three full games and all but a few snaps in a fourth. Joseph has missed the past two games while Harris missed the last game before last week’s bye.
So, overall, coach Mike Zimmer is quite pleased with the health of his 8-3 team heading into December and Monday night’s game against the 9-2 Seahawks.
“Guys have been taking care of their bodies pretty well,” Zimmer said. “I think the bye came at a good time for us. Get a little rested up and ready to go.”
Kennedy key to Cook’s fresh legs late in year
If you think Dalvin Cook looks unusually fresh for an injury-prone halfback heading into December, thank running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu.
So says offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski.
Besides Cook’s diligence in the weight room and rookie Alexander Mattison’s NFL-ready maturity, Polamalu’s instincts for rotating them has been a key to keeping Cook fresh.
“I think Kennedy Polamalu does a great job of platooning those guys early, and we just got to keep 33 [Cook] fresh as the game and the season goes on,” Stefanski said. “Certainly, a player of his caliber, you’d love to keep him out there every play, obviously, but that’s not a prudent decision. So Kennedy does a nice job of rolling those guys in. … I lean on K.P. [Polamalu] to know when to ride him for another play and know when to get him out of there.”
Cook ranks second in the league in yards from scrimmage at 1,472. Each of the top five in that category is a running back. Of those five, Cook has played the fewest snaps (519) and the lowest percentage of snaps (.715), according to Pro Football Focus.
Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey (1,709 yards) has played 711 snaps for a percentage of .939. Jacksonville’s Leonard Fournette (1,342) has played 674 snaps (.880) while Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott (1,316) has played 704 snaps (.837) and Cleveland’s Nick Chubb has played 532 snaps (.724).
Mattison has played 144 snaps (.198) while complementing Cook with 394 yards on 82 carries (4.8). His average per carry is second among rookie running backs behind Buffalo’s Devin Singletary (5.8) while his four runs of 20-plus yards rank third among rookies behind Oakland’s Josh Jacobs (seven) and Singletary (five).
Philip Rivers holds the active streak for consecutive regular-season games played by a quarterback with 220. Nos. 2-3 face off Monday night in Seattle. Russell Wilson is second at 123 while Kirk Cousins follows at 75.
Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph leads tight ends with 76 consecutive games played. Britton Colquitt (155) is fourth among punters while Danielle Hunter (72) is fourth among defensive ends.
When it comes to games started, Cook and Seattle’s Chris Carson are tied for third among running backs at 18 games. McCaffrey is first (31) and Chubb is second (19).
Chad Johnson visits
Former Bengals receiver Chad Johnson, formerly known as Chad Ochocinco, spent Saturday at TCO Performance Center with an NFL Films crew for a piece on Stefon Diggs, Thielen and Cook.
After practice, a certain former Bengals defensive coordinator wrapped Johnson in a bear hug and jokingly asked, “Are you ever going to go across the middle?”
Asked for his favorite Ochocinco moment, Zimmer said, “He always kept it loose over there. But he had a hard time beating our DBs.”
The comment was intended for Johnson’s ears.
“Me?” Johnson said. “I’m always open. I’m open now.”