MINNEAPOLIS - The Minnesota Vikings are in enhanced COVID-19 protocols with four regular season games to play, as the team appears to be experiencing virus issues at the most critical time of the season.
Coach Mike Zimmer said Tuesday they’ve been in enhanced protocols since the week after Thanksgiving, and they’re not alone. The Vikings are one of seven NFL teams in such a predicament. It’s not just a Vikings’ problem, it’s an NFL problem.
After 32 players tested positive on Monday, another 28 tested positive. That makes 60 positive COVID-19 cases within the last 48 hours. The Vikings on Tuesday placed Dede Westbrook, Trishton Jackson and A.J. Rose Jr. on the reserve/COVID-19 list. That’s six players in the last two days, with the most notable on Monday being No. 2 running back Alexander Mattison.
Danielle Hunter, out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle, went on the COVID-19 list on Tuesday.
Under the enhanced protocols, all Vikings’ staff and players have to get tested. Everyone has to wear masks, vaccinated or not, inside TCO Performance Center. Team meetings either have to be virtual, or in a space that allows everyone to be spaced out. Practices and walk-throughs go on as normal.
The Vikings have had key players miss games at various times of the season due to COVID-19. Most recently, Patrick Peterson and Dalvin Tomlinson. Harrison Smith had to miss two games, Garrett Bradbury missed one game and Dakota Dozier reportedly had to be hospitalized.
COVID-19 issues aren't exclusive to the Vikings, it’s happening across the league. The L.A. Rams had seven players, including Odell Beckham Jr., put on the reserve/COVID-19 list Tuesday. The Cleveland Browns had six players on the COVID list.
"I know when I came in, yesterday I got texts this guy is positive, today we had some positives. It’s just kind of trying to figure out who’s up next and where we go from here. Every single morning I’m going to get some kind of text update," Zimmer said. "It seems to be worse right now, maybe worse than it was last year at any point during the season to me, but I don’t know."
The Vikings, Rams, Bears, Lions, Falcons, Browns and Washington Football Team are all in enhanced COVID-19 protocols. The Vikings head to Chicago to face the Bears next Monday night in a critical game for both teams.
The Vikings improved to 6-7 with four games to play after Thursday's win over the Steelers. The remaining schedule includes two games against the Bears, hosting the Rams and traveling to Lambeau Field to face the Green Bay Packers. Minnesota likely needs to finish no worse than 3-1 in the last four to be comfortably in the NFC Playoffs.
"We have to go out and play good every week. We have to be detailed with the things that we’re doing. Just talking to the players about these next four games, how important they are and trying to get on a roll here," Zimmer said.