MINNEAPOLIS - Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer doesn’t believe the COVID-19 pandemic will put a stop to the NFL regular season, despite positive tests among players rising with four weeks left in the regular season.
Since Monday, the Vikings have put seven players on the reserve/COVID-19 list. The biggest names of note are No. 2 running back Alexander Mattison, and receiver/punt returner Dede Westbrook. Zimmer revealed Thursday that senior defensive assistant Paul Guenther, and three strength coaches are away from the team after testing positive for COVID-19.
The Chicago Bears, Monday night's opponent, will be without all three of its coordinators due to COVID-19 protocols. Nearly 60 players across the NFL were on the COVID-19 list on Tuesday. Another 30 were put on the list Wednesday. There remains no plans to postpone or cancel any games with four weeks to go.
"They’ll make it, they won’t cancel any games. I 100 percent for sure believe that," Zimmer said.
Just two days ago, the NHL postponed the Minnesota Wild's game against the Carolina Hurricanes due to COVID-19 issues with the Hurricanes. College basketball games are being postponed, but the NFL forges on.
The Vikings face the Bears Monday for what will be the fifth night game at Soldier Field for Minnesota under Zimmer. After holding off the Pittsburgh Steelers 36-28 last Thursday, the Vikings are one of five teams in the NFC at 6-7 with four games to play.
They’re currently in the No. 8 spot, and the top seven teams make the playoffs. The Vikings likely need to finish 3-1 in two games against the Bears, a home game against the L.A. Rams and a visit to Lambeau Field to face the Green Bay Packers to feel good about their playoff chances.
"It’s a four-game season. All we’ve done to this point, we’ve put ourselves in position where it’s about these next four games. We’re going to have to deliver over these four games to be where we want to be at the end," quarterback Kirk Cousins said.
DALVIN COOK SAYS LEFT SHOULDER IS ‘FULLY HEALED’
If last week’s game wasn’t enough proof, Dalvin Cook said Thursday his left shoulder is fully healed and he’s ready to play the rest of the season. Cook had to be carted off in the Vikings’ loss at the 49ers after hurting the shoulder on a fumble.
He missed the loss at Detroit, then had 27 carries for a season-high 205 yards and two scores as the Vikings beat the Steelers. He’ll wear a brace on the shoulder the rest of the season, but says he’s fine otherwise.
"It’s fully healed. My shoulder don’t need no more extra days. I’m ready to play," Cook said. "I’m not dealing with lingering soreness or pain, it’s just time to play ball."
Cook is closing in on a 1,000-yard season, with 978 yards and six rushing touchdowns in 10 games.
GARRETT BRADBURY TALKS RETURNING FROM COVID
Garrett Bradbury talked candidly with reporters on Thursday about missing four straight games this season, two after testing positive for COVID-19. The other two? He needed to work his way back, and Mason Cole was playing well in his absence.
It’s been a rollercoaster month for the 2019 first round draft choice.
"Finding out yet get COVID, you’re at home by yourself pretty much for 10 days, a lot of thoughts go through your head. The main thought was I can’t wait to get back," Bradbury said.
He took the time away to watch film of himself from every game this season. In his own words, he said he was "playing not to mess up and a little timid." The Vikings have scored 27 and 36 points in the two games since his return.
"The last two games I’ve kind of taken a different mindset to it, it motivated me more. I always want to put it on myself because that way I can change it," Bradbury said.
ERIC KENDRICKS, ADAM THIELEN SIT OUT THURSDAY PRACTICE
The Vikings held a light walk-through at TCO Performance Center on Thursday to start preparations for the Bears Monday night. The only two players who didn’t appear to be practicing were linebacker Eric Kendricks and wide receiver Adam Thielen.
Kendricks missed the Vikings’ loss at Detroit with an injury, but returned against the Steelers with 11 tackles and a quarterback hit. He's listed on the injury report with a low back issue. Thielen made one catch against the Lions before leaving with an ankle injury, and didn’t play against the Steelers. He has 686 yards and 10 touchdowns in 12 games.
Christian Darrisaw, who's missed the last two games with an ankle injury suffered at the 49ers, returned to practice Thursday and was limited.