Jim Souhan
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Saturday night, Vikings receiver Adam Thielen ran a route over the middle, took a hit, then limped to the sideline.

A minute later, Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer sought out Thielen, who pointed at his right leg.

After the game, Zimmer said Thielen has a thigh bruise, but these are the Vikings and this is 2021 so let's apply this disclaimer: Problems may be more worrisome than they first appear.

The Vikings on Saturday lost to the Indianapolis Colts 12-10 at U.S. Bank Stadium, in a game that marred an excellent halftime show featuring dogs.

Fans in attendance, perhaps finally realizing that preseason NFL games are a scam, did the wave and threw their programs into the air, causing the public address announcer to ask them to stop, which caused them to throw even more programs into the air. But enough of the game highlights.

The Vikings may not allow another starter to take another game snap until the regular season begins, and they have discovered more problems than they have solved this month.

The Vikings' offseason began with optimism because of the rebuilt defensive line and the potential rebuilding of the offensive line. The return of Danielle Hunter alone would have made a difference; adding Dalvin Tomlinson and Michael Pierce to a group that mimicked roadkill last year could make the defensive front a team strength again.

That kind of optimism has not persisted.

Let's recount what has happened elsewhere on the roster of late:

  • Cornerback Jeff Gladney, a first-round draft pick, was released after he was indicted on a felony domestic violence charge. His fellow young starting cornerback, Cam Dantzler, has regressed.
  • This year's first-round pick, Christian Darrisaw, has been injured for much of training camp. The current starter at Darrisaw's future position, left tackle, is Rashod Hill. Saturday, Hill whiffed badly on a one-on-one block, leading to a sack.
  • Linebacker Anthony Barr has been missing practice without explanation. The last time the Vikings enabled this kind of medical mystery, Hunter missed an entire season.
  • Quarterback Kirk Cousins outed himself as an anti-vaxxer and the Vikings were declared the least-vaccinated team in the NFL, angering Zimmer.
  • The Vikings do not have a backup quarterback. Jake Browning played horribly in two preseason games. Kellen Mond is the future backup but if Cousins is injured or comes down with some sort of virus, Mond is not ready to take over.

Asked about bringing in a veteran, Zimmer mentioned the Vikings' "monetary situation."

The Vikings may have done the impossible, and made us miss Sean Mannion.

  • While the Vikings were dealing with each Crisis Of The Week, the Packers brought quarterback Aaron Rodgers back into the fold, making Green Bay again the prohibitive favorite to win the NFC North.
  • The Vikings' latest kicker, Greg Joseph, made a 49-yard field goal but missed a 51-yarder. With a different team, that might not be newsworthy. For a Vikings kicker, it is the black cloud spewing lightning on the horizon.
  • The Vikings' only touchdown of the preseason was scored by backup linebacker Troy Dye. Zimmer said he may play some of his offensive starters in the final preseason game, a decision that reeks of worry.

Zimmer has not presided over consecutive losing seasons with the Vikings. His team finished 7-9 last year.

This might be the season that determines whether Zimmer, General Manager Rick Spielman and Cousins are long for the organization, and the last few weeks have been ominous.

The final scores of preseason games are meaningless. That doesn't mean that what happens in August is meaningless.

Good teams tend to stay or get healthy, build an esprit de corps and get their key offensive players on the same page, even if only in practice. Saturday night, Zimmer was trying to explain why the first-team passing offense has been misfiring in practice.

An optimist would assume that the Vikings will start the season with an easy victory over what has been a bad Bengals team.

A realist now has reason to worry about that game, and the season.