Michael Pierce inactive, Dalvin Cook will play for Vikings at Panthers

Dalvin Cook #33 of the Minnesota Vikings runs with the ball against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on September 12, 2021 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  ((Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images))

The Minnesota Vikings are on the road to face the Carolina Panthers Sunday before heading into their bye week, and there were no pregame surprises with the inactives.

Defensive tackle Michael Pierce will miss his second straight game with an elbow injury suffered in the 14-7 loss to the Cleveland Browns. Without Pierce on the interior of the defensive line, the Vikings’ defense has struggled in the run game. The Vikings won’t have to face Panthers’ running back Christian McCaffrey, who was placed on injured reserve earlier this week with a hamstring issue and will miss at least the next three games.

It appears running back Dalvin Cook will return after missing last week’s win over the Detroit Lions with an ankle injury suffered during Week 2 at Arizona. In probably the oddest stat of the season, the Vikings have yet to win a game with Cook on the field. Both victories have come with Cook inactive.

It also looks like receivers Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson will play after nursing injuries all week and being limited in practice. Thielen has been dealing with a foot injury, and Jefferson an ankle. Neither carried an injury designation into Sunday’s game after Friday’s practice.

Jefferson and Thielen are among the top receiving duos in the NFL with a combined 59 catches for 729 yards and seven touchdowns through five games.

Rookie Christian Darrisaw could make his first start on the offensive line Sunday. The Vikings scored a touchdown on his first offensive series against the Lions, and he played extensively in the second half of that win.

In addition to Pierce, the Vikings’ inactives include Kellen Mond, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Chazz Surratt, Ben Ellefson and Patrick Jones II. It’s a critical game for the Vikings, with the chance to go 3-3 heading into the bye week.