Vikings receiver Adam Thielen was cleared to return to practice Wednesday and is expected to play Sunday against the Jaguars, according to coach Mike Zimmer, after a 10-day quarantine because of a positive COVID-19 test.
The Vikings’ COVID list is now empty after Thielen was the sixth player to be quarantined since Oct. 28, with three players testing positive: Thielen, guard Dru Samia and linebacker Todd Davis. Thielen’s 11 touchdown catches led the NFL entering last weekend, when Thielen missed his first game of the season in the 28-27 win vs. Carolina.
“Great to have him back,” quarterback Kirk Cousins said. “He’s a top player on our team and in our league, and it’s great to have his personality back in our locker room and on our practice field. Looking forward to getting him back on the field on Sunday, and I’m glad that he and his family are totally healthy and doing well.”
NFL players with asymptomatic cases can return after five days with two negative tests, or after 10 days from the initial positive test. Symptomatic cases require a minimum 10-day quarantine.
Thielen remained involved from a distance, logging into virtual meetings and helping teammates with their preparation. He went viral on social media when a video posted by his wife, Caitlin, showed him cheering on Cousins’ game-winning drive against the Panthers.
“After the game, I actually FaceTimed him and was just talking through the game and how it was,” said receiver Bisi Johnson, who had a career-high seven catches for 74 yards. “I was like, ‘Yeah, I didn’t get my depth on this route.’ He was like, ‘Man, don’t sweat it too much. It comes with playing the game.’”
‘Ain’t no wear-down’
The Vikings want “to be smart” with running back Dalvin Cook, said coach Mike Zimmer, while Cook was limited in Wednesday’s practice because of the ankle injury that led to him getting helped off the field against Carolina. The Jaguars’ 31st-ranked defense offers as good a chance as any to spell Cook more often with Alexander Mattison.
Cook said Panthers defenders in a pileup were “doing things” on the play his ankle was injured, later adding, “It’s football. I talk a lot of trash. I probably deserve it.” But he brushed off the notion his 248 touches, which trail only the 270 of Titans running back Derrick Henry, should concern anyone.
“I don’t think that’s a question you’d ask Derrick Henry or anybody else,” Cook said. “I’m a running back. Ain’t no wear-down. I’m ready to tote the ball.”
Guard Ezra Cleveland (ankle) returned from a two-week absence and was limited. Four players did not practice: tight end Irv Smith Jr. (back), defensive end D.J. Wonnum (back/ankle), punter Britton Colquitt (not injury-related) and tackle Rashod Hill (not injury-related).
Long snapper set
Andrew DePaola, the 33-year-old NFL journeyman signed by the Vikings on Nov. 21, will keep the long snapper job after Austin Cutting was waived this week. Cutting cleared waivers Wednesday and is free to re-sign to the Vikings practice squad.
Kicker Dan Bailey made all eight kicks, including six extra points and two field goals, in the past two games with DePaola.
“He’s just done a nice job with the snaps,” Zimmer said. “We were having trouble, especially with the short snaps, and he’s done a nice job. I think Bailey feels confident with him, along with Colquitt.”
• The Vikings missed on safety Will Parks in free agency last spring and missed again Wednesday as the former Broncos draft pick will return to Denver. Parks was claimed by the Broncos (4-7), ahead of a claim by the Vikings (5-6) in the waiver order, which is decided by record.
•The Vikings waived linebacker Hardy Nickerson Jr. as Thielen and DePaola were added to the 53-man roster.
•Cornerback Tae Hayes, a 2019 undrafted free agent out of Appalachian State, has been signed to the practice squad. He was released by the Dolphins last month.