Linval Joseph returned to practice on Wednesday, and Vikings coach Mike Zimmer is hopeful that his big nose tackle will be able to play in Sunday’s wild-card round game against the Seattle Seahawks at TCF Bank Stadium.
Joseph did not play in Sunday night’s 20-13 victory over the Green Bay Packers. He did not even participate in practice at all last week after his injured toe did not respond favorably after his return to action Dec. 27 against the New York Giants.
The victory over the Giants was Joseph’s first game since injuring his toe Nov. 29 against the Atlanta Falcons. He briefly consulted with the athletic training staff in the first quarter of the Giants game but returned to play 31 of the 61 defensive snaps.
“After the game, it was sore and swollen,” Zimmer said. “Just took a little time.”
Zimmer said the Vikings didn’t hold out Joseph, a limited participant Wednesday in his first practice since Christmas, against the Packers because they were saving him for the playoffs.
“If he could have played, he would have played,” Zimmer said.
Peterson sits out
Running back Adrian Peterson, who is dealing with a lower back injury in addition to the ankle injury he suffered in Week 15 against the Chicago Bears, did not practice Wednesday. He participated in the team stretch then stood and watched position drills with his hands stuffed into the pockets of his hooded sweatshirt.
Fullback Zach Line (illness) and nose tackle Kendrick Ellis (ankle) also sat out.
Wide receiver Adam Thielen, who injured his left shoulder against the Packers but returned to the game, was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice.
With Rhett Ellison, the team’s best blocking tight end, officially on injured reserve because of the knee injury he suffered against the Packers, the Vikings will rely on rookie tight end MyCole Pruitt to take on some of Ellison’s dirty work.
Pruitt, a fifth-round draft pick, has averaged about a dozen snaps per game this season. More of a pass-catcher up to this point, Pruitt had 10 catches for 89 yards during the regular season. But he likely will have to do more blocking going forward. Zimmer has seen progress from Pruitt in that area throughout the season.
“He’s a shorter-statured guy with a lower center of gravity that has some size and strength,” Zimmer said. “So he’ll be OK in the running game.”
Instead of promoting tight end Dominique Jones from their practice squad to replace Ellison on the 53-man roster, the Vikings gave that roster spot to rookie B.J. DuBose, a defensive lineman they selected in the sixth round of the 2015 draft.
DuBose was cut after the preseason and signed on to the practice squad, where the Vikings have been prepping him to play both defensive end and tackle.
“It feels good,” DuBose said. “I’m glad my coaches believed in me and obviously they saw the work that I was putting in throughout the season and it paid off.”
Defensive end Everson Griffen on Wednesday was named the NFC’s Defensive Player of the Week after his monster game against the Packers.
He sacked Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers twice, including a strip-sack that resulted in a fumble return touchdown for cornerback Captain Munnerlyn. He also made six tackles, three for a loss, and was credited with four quarterback hits.
Griffen became the third Vikings player to win the award this season. Joseph and cornerback Terence Newman won in consecutive weeks back in November.
Bring ’em on
There was a sentiment among a sector of the fan base that the Vikings might be better off losing to the Packers so they could avoid the Seahawks in the wild-card round. But defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd said that all along he preferred a rematch with the Seahawks over potential road playoff games in Green Bay or Washington.
“It’s hard to beat a team twice,” Floyd rationalized. “And it’s the hardest road. We don’t want the easy route, we’ll take the hard one. We’ll fight for it.”