The NFL has placed a temporary moratorium on flame effects and pyrotechnics typically used before and during games. This comes as the league reviews a fire that erupted before Sunday’s game against the Titans and Colts when equipment burst into flames in Nashville during pregame festivities.
The Vikings say they’re “exploring other special effects options” as pregame fixtures like the flame-shooting ship will be limited for now.
Wilson could get the start Sunday
Third-year Vikings linebacker Eric Wilson has grown into the go-to replacement for coach Mike Zimmer when he needs a fill-in. Entering Sunday’s game against the Raiders, Zimmer might turn to Wilson again for what could be his sixth NFL start in the past 11 games dating to last season.
Linebackers Anthony Barr (groin) and Ben Gedeon (groin) are officially listed “questionable” to play against the Raiders. Both linebackers were limited in Friday’s practice. Barr, who said “we’ll see” when asked if he’ll play, is expected to suit up, according to Zimmer, who expressed confidence in Wilson as a replacement for either linebacker.
“He’s a real versatile guy,” Zimmer said. “He’s had quite a bit of playing time over the last couple of years, and if he does have to play, we’ll expect him to go in there and play well.”
Wilson started last week in Green Bay for Gedeon and had four tackles, two for stops, and a hit on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Much like teammate Eric Kendricks, Wilson said a key has been finding the right speed at which to play after overrunning ball carriers, which leads to poor tackling angles.
“You learn what plays you can play really fast and what plays you have to be patient,” Wilson said, “determined by what they call and what play we run. You have to gain that experience to be aware.”
Hughes on deck?
Cornerback Mike Hughes might be primed for his return Sunday after fully practicing Friday for the fourth consecutive session. Hughes, who has not played in nearly 11 months since injuring multiple ligaments in his left knee, has said he’ll wear a brace whenever he returns.
Hughes is officially listed questionable to play. So is left guard Pat Elflein (knee), who was a full participant Friday. For the Raiders, right tackle Trent Brown (knee) and linebacker Vontaze Burfict (knee/shoulder) are questionable.
Cornerback Mackensie Alexander (elbow) has been ruled out.
The NFL sent memos to 32 teams this offseason with tips aimed at preventing hamstring injuries after a committee identified them as the “second-longest injury for missed time,” per Zimmer, who took particular interest after the Vikings had a rash of hamstring injuries last season.
Hydration and movement-based stretching have been two focal points for the Vikings. Through three weeks of practices, only two players have been sidelined because of tweaked hamstrings in receiver Josh Doctson (injured reserve) and Stefon Diggs, who missed one practice.
“Knock on wood,” Zimmer said. “We haven’t had a lot of those right now.”
Holding the line
Rookie center Garrett Bradbury found himself targeted by the NFL’s officiating emphasis on offensive holding, for which he was flagged twice last week in Green Bay. The old saying goes holding happens on every play, and Bradbury said there’s something to being aware about what situations holding is more likely to be called.
“You have to pay that much more attention to the little things,” Bradbury said. “Understanding what types of plays and situations you’ll be more vulnerable to getting called for holding. You just have to be smart.”
The Vikings are celebrating their 1969 Super Bowl team this weekend. On Saturday, there will be a fan fest from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Mall of America's rotunda and northeast court.