The Vikings signed guard Bryan Witzmann on Monday and placed versatile reserve Aviante Collins on injured reserve because of a season-ending elbow injury.
Collins, the second-year guard/tackle out of TCU, injured his elbow in practice last week. The Vikings brought in three offensive linemen for a workout Friday and signed Witzmann on Monday.
“AC is a good football player. We’re going to miss him, but we’re going to continue to build depth,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “We’re going to continue to push.”
Witzmann, 28, joins the NFL team closest to his hometown of Somerset, Wis., roughly a 30-minute drive east of U.S. Bank Stadium. He started 13 games at left guard for the Chiefs in 2017. He went undrafted in 2014 out of South Dakota State.
Collins is the second Vikings offensive lineman to suffer a season-ending injury. Starting left guard Nick Easton was lost for the year during training camp after surgery to repair a bulging disk in his neck.
For the most part, according to Zimmer, the starting five offensive linemen communicated well during their debut in Sunday’s 24-16 victory over the 49ers. Some communication and subsequent blocking problems still arose, which they’ll look to get cleaned up before Sunday’s game at Lambeau Field.
Center Pat Elflein’s return would be a boost, but it’s unclear if he will be ready this week after practicing on a limited basis last week for the first time since undergoing two offseason surgeries. Quarterback Kirk Cousins took six hits, including three sacks, against the 49ers.
“Going into a hostile environment in Green Bay, it’s going to be important that we’re on an even better page of communication,” center Brett Jones said. “So, it’s definitely something we’ll be able to work on.”
Waynes to practice
Cornerback Trae Waynes walked through the locker room Monday without a brace on his right knee, a good sign after he left the 49ers game because of an injury. Waynes will practice this week, according to Zimmer, pushing the Vikings secondary back toward full health. Cornerback Mackensie Alexander (ankle), who returned to practice last week but did not play Sunday, also remains on the mend.
Rookie Mike Hughes’ aggressive play left a good impression on Zimmer while filling in for Waynes at left cornerback. Hughes played 52 snaps (79 percent) in his NFL debut.
“A couple of plays they hit on us were things he blanked out on,” Zimmer said. “But he was competitive. When he got out there, he typically challenged the receivers. A lot of young guys that go out there and play in their first game, they’re a little bit cautious.”
Returns on life support?
The fourth quarter of the Dolphins-Titans game in Miami had two kickoff returns for scores, but far north of there the Vikings and 49ers forced touchbacks on all 10 kickoffs. As NFL rule changes continue to dissuade teams from attempting returns, safety Anthony Harris, who had 20 special teams snaps Sunday, just wants to see an opportunity for rookie returner Hughes.
“During the preseason we saw flashes of guys getting a chance to return some,” Harris said. “We’re excited for the returns we have and look forward to [getting] them going as we go forward.”