The Minnesota Vikings on Friday activated Kenny Willekes off a COVID-19 reserve list, meaning their top reserve defensive end could play Sunday against Green Bay.
Willekes, who is fully vaccinated, was placed on a list Nov. 12 and had to have two negative tests 24 hours apart to return to the team to avoid being out as many as 10 days. He met all protocols and was at practice on Friday.
Willekes reverted back to the practice squad, and the Vikings released defensive end Nate Orchard to make room for him on the 16-man squad.
The Vikings listed on their injury report guard Wyatt Davis (ankle) as out for Sunday and cornerback Bashaud Breeland (groin) as questionable. Due to Willekes being on the practice squad, Minnesota was not required to list him on the report.
“We’ll see if he can play this week,” said Vikings coach Mike Zimmer. “We don’t know yet.”
Zimmer also was noncommittal on whether cornerback Patrick Peterson will be activated for Sunday’s game. After he missed three games due to a hamstring injury, Peterson on Wednesday was designated to return from injured reserve. There has been optimism during the week that he will be back Sunday.
“I don’t know, we’ll see,” Zimmer said. “He had a good week.”
In last Sunday’s 27-20 win at the Los Angeles Chargers, Peterson was among five top defensive starters out. But as many as three could be back to face the Packers. Safety Harrison Smith will return after missing two games while on the COVID-19 reserve list and Anthony Barr was not on the injury report after sitting out against the Chargers due to a knee injury.
To play on Sunday, Willekes would need to be elevated from the practice squad. He has one standard elevation remaining this season but also could be a COVID replacement player for safety Josh Metellus.
Willekes missed last Sunday’s game when the Vikings used reserve defensive ends Patrick Jones II and Eddie Yarbrough for a combined total of just 15 snaps in relief of starters Everson Griffen and D.J. Wonnum. In his last game, Willekes played 41 snaps off the bench at Baltimore on Nov. 7, although the Ravens ran a whopping 98 offensive plays.
The Vikings in a recent two-week span put eight players on COVID lists, but Willekes’ activation leaves them with just three still out. In addition to Metellus being on the 53-man list, guard Dakota Dozier and fullback Jake Bargas are on the practice squad list.
The Packers on Friday listed as out running back Aaron Jones (knee), tackle David Bakhtiari (knee) and wide receiver Malik Taylor (abdomen), as doubtful wide receiver Allen Lazard (shoulder) and as questionable linebacker Rashan Gary (elbow) and defensive end Kingsley Keke (concussion).
Four set to play
Four Vikings players who had false positive COVID-19 tests on Wednesday and missed practice will all be available to play Sunday.
Missing one day practice were tackle Brian O’Neill, defensive end D.J. Wonnum, cornerback Mackensie Alexander and tight end Chris Herndon. All returned for workouts on Thursday and Friday.
“You get the tests and those guys have to leave the building,’’ Zimmer said. “Try to get them on virtually with the meetings and stuff like that, but they can’t be here and you have to wait until you hear back on whether it was a false positive or positive.”
Who's the center?
Zimmer said Friday a decision had been made on who will start Sunday at center, but he wouldn’t reveal it.
Third-year man Garrett Bradbury had started 39 straight games at center until going on the COVID list and missing the past two games. In his absence, Mason Cole played well, and Zimmer said Monday the week of practice would determine who gets the nod against the Packers.
Bradbury was activated off the COVID list Wednesday, and went through a full week of practice. Offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak said after Thursday’s practice that Bradbury and Cole were both “getting reps."