Vikings cornerback Akayleb Evans said Monday he expects to be "full go" and cleared to return for Sunday's game in Las Vegas.
Evans, who started the first 10 games, has missed two games because of a right calf strain he suffered in the 27-19 Nov. 12 victory over the Saints. Coming off three weeks of recovery including the bye week, Evans ran through drills at the start of Monday's walk-through.
"It's the best it has felt since I hurt it," Evans said. "Feeling real good and confident."
Receiver Justin Jefferson, whom coach Kevin O'Connell previously said will return from a seven-game absence on Sunday, also ran through drills in front of reporters.
Evans' return would bolster the Vikings' eighth-ranked scoring defense (20.2 points per game) that recently lost linebacker Jordan Hicks because of a leg injury. They've remained solid, holding opponents to no more than 21 points and 325 yards in six of the past seven games.
Evans, the 2022 fourth-round pick, has five pass deflections and three forced fumbles, including a key takeaway in the 31-28 Nov. 5 win in Atlanta when he ripped the ball out of Falcons running back Bijan Robinson's hands. He said he's grown along with the rest of his young defensive teammates.
"My maturity and how to handle everything," Evans said. "There's a lot that comes with this business on and off the field. But just being able to have my mindset right, not let outside noise influence me. It's been huge. You really realize — people talk about the game is 90% mental, it's real."
Like many, Evans said he watched the Packers beat the reigning Super Bowl champion Chiefs on Sunday night. Green Bay's 27-19 win means the NFC North currently has three teams with tentative playoff spots between the Lions (9-3), Vikings (6-6) and Packers (6-6). Evans said the postseason is coming early to Minnesota.
"Especially with our last three games being Detroit twice and Green Bay," Evans said. "It's going to be [like] playoff games."
'A little bit better'
Players returned from the bye week preaching that they need to play better around whichever quarterback starts on Sunday. O'Connell did not publicly address reporters Monday, when quarterbacks Joshua Dobbs, Nick Mullens and Jaren Hall participated in a walk-through that was mostly closed to media.
Dobbs, who has played much of the past four games since being acquired from Arizona, got a vote of confidence from center Garrett Bradbury.
"Josh has been great," Bradbury said. "He was thrown in the fire. Learning this offense as fast as he has, that's a tough task. Tip my cap to him, because it's not easy. He's done a great job extending plays, using his feet and making plays down the field. He's been a lot of fun to play for. Everyone's got to do their part a little bit better."
Right tackle Brian O'Neill said Monday he hadn't yet been told which passer he'll be protecting. They'll need him to play well against Raiders edge rusher Maxx Crosby, who leads all pass rushers by playing 97% of the snaps. Crosby's 11½ sacks trail only a handful of defenders, including the Vikings' Danielle Hunter (13½).
"I have about as much respect for him as anybody I have watched consistently over the last six years," O'Neill said. "Just the effort he plays with, how he never comes off the field. It's like 99% play time, which is just unheard of. … It's going to take my best."
Assistant leaves for Clemson
Defensive line coach Chris Rumph, who had been away from the Vikings on a "personal leave" following the Oct. 15 win in Chicago, was officially hired by Clemson to be defensive ends coach. Rumph, 51, previously coached at Clemson from 2006-2010 under current head coach Dabo Swinney.
Rumph was let out of the final year of his contract with the Vikings, according to a league source, in the middle of his first season under coordinator Brian Flores. Rumph originally joined the Vikings in 2022 under former coordinator Ed Donatell.
Assistant defensive line coach Pat Hill has led the Vikings' interior defensive linemen in Rumph's place.
* The Vikings re-signed receiver N'Keal Harry to the practice squad on Monday. Harry, who was waived from the active roster last week to make room for Jefferson, replaces released quarterback Sean Mannion on the practice squad.