C.J. Ham, Irv Smith Jr. miss 2nd straight Vikings practice

Irv Smith Jr. #84 of the Minnesota Vikings catches a touchdown pass while covered by Desmond Trufant #23 of the Detroit Lions at U.S. Bank Stadium on November 08, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. ((Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images))

The Minnesota Vikings held their second practice Friday in preparation to face the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football, and two key offensive players were absent for the second straight day.

Fullback C.J. Ham (shoulder) was absent from the portion of practice open to the media. Tight end Irv Smith Jr. (groin) participated in stretching at the start of practice without a helmet, then left the field and didn’t participate in practice.

Both have been important pieces to the Vikings offense in their last two wins. Ham is often the lead blocker for Dalvin Cook, who is now second in the NFL in rushing yards and leads the league with 12 rushing touchdowns. Cook was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week for the second consecutive time after rushing for a career-high 206 yards and two touchdowns in the win over the Lions.

Smith had two catches last Sunday, and they both went for touchdowns. Smith has also been move involved this season as a run blocker for Cook. Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak said Friday that despite both missing two days of practice, they’re “trending in the right direction” to play Monday night.

Offensive lineman Pat Elflein did not practice on Friday, but has been activated from injured reserve. That leaves open the possibility he could play Monday night at Chicago. Elflein has not played since Week 1 due to a thumb injury.

Vikings could have a special teams situation

Despite a convincing 34-20 win over the Lions, Mike Zimmer was still shaking his head after the game over special teams. Britton Colquitt had a pair of punts blocked, one of which led to a Detroit touchdown. Dan Bailey also missed an extra point, and the Vikings struggled in the punt return game.

Marwan Maalouf, the Vikings’ special teams coordinator, said Thursday the blocked punts were largely a technique issue.

“They’re both technique, nothing mental. If you’re going to choose between technique and mental, I’m always going to choose technique. It is so important that we go back to our fundamentals, I think that’s the most important thing for the guys,” Maalouf said.

The other special teams issue? Long snapper Austin Cutting has not practiced this week after being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. His status for Monday night is not known, and the Vikings have had as many as three players take reps in practice this week at long snapper.

Maalouf wouldn’t say who, but at least one is linebacker Eric Kendricks. Maalouf is hoping he doesn’t have to go down that road, especially when the success in punting, kicking and extra points starts first with a good snap.

“Hopefully Austin’s situation improves, that’s up to the medical people and how everything has been going there. We really do have about three guys that have been taking reps, they’ve all done a pretty good job under the circumstances,” Maalouf said. “If you see it, I think you’d be impressed.”