While the Vikings have been largely healthy the first couple of weeks, this go-around they are facing a wave of injuries, including some to key players.
Griffen and Cook Ruled Out
Everson Griffen and Dalvin Cook will miss Sunday’s game, Mike Zimmer confirmed Friday. It is unclear exactly when Griffen suffered a knee injury, but he has sat out each day at practice. Stephen Weatherly will likely get the start in his stead. In limited time this year, Weatherly has been solid as the third end. While last year, he filled in mostly in run situations, he has seen a number of pass rush opportunities, recording a hurry in two games. He also has two tackles and has been a key part of the Vikings’ goal line defense.
Alongside Weatherly, second-year end Tashawn Bower should also see some more time. He was inactive last week, but played a handful of snaps against he 49ers in week one.
Cook injured his hamstring late in last week’s game in Green Bay. After the game, he attributed the injury to exhaustion from the heat, but Cook missed practice all week. As he did much of last year, Latavius Murray will handle the work load. Behind him, we will see whether C.J. Ham, Mike Boone or Roc Thomas see the bulk of touches in relief for Murray. Both undrafted rookies showed in preseason and Ham, though listed as a fullback, was a tailback in college and has proven to be reliable with the ball in his hands. The one hiccup in the Vikings’ plan could be Boone, who is questionable with a groin injury. He did, however, fully participate in Friday practice.
Sherels and Morgan Ruled Out
A little further down the depth chart, the Vikings will be without a couple de facto starters, as well. Return man Marcus Sherels will miss due to a rib injury and second tight end David Morgan is out with knee troubles. With alternate returner Stacy Coley no longer on roster, it would seem rookies Mike Hughes and Holton Hill will handle most, if not all of the return duties.
Without Morgan, rookie Tyler Conklin will be tasked with being the primary blocking tight end. Conklin was reputed as a receiver in college, but he looked more than up to the task as a blocker in preseason. Plus, Morgan has taken on more of a receiving role this year, something Conklin should be qualified for. Morgan’s injury will limit some of the Vikings’ three tight end sets, but Minnesota has motioned receivers inside to serve as third tight ends on several occasions, typically with Adam Thielen.
Elflein to Return
Second-year center Pat Elflein will make his return to the active roster, though Zimmer said he will not start Sunday. He did say the Vikings “have a role” for Elflein, but would not elaborate what that role is. Elflein has not played in a game since fracturing his ankle in the NFC Championship Game in January. He had surgery on both the ankle and his shoulder, which he injured in September.
Bills’ Starters Questionable
While fewer Buffalo starters have officially been ruled out, there are a couple who are questionable. Most notably, star running back LeSean McCoy is nursing a rib injury. McCoy has been limited in practice all week and appears to be a game-time decision.
Starting corner Phillip Gaines is also questionable with an elbow injury. He also was limited all week in practice. The only Bill currently confirmed out is defensive end Shaq Lawson, who is still recovering from a knee injury suffered a couple weeks ago.
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