Vikings without several players at Wednesday practice ahead of Panthers' game

Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Ezra Cleveland (72) battles with Chicago Bears defensive end Akiem Hicks (96) in action during a NFL game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Chicago Bears on November 16, 2020 at Soldier Field, in Chicago, IL. ((Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images))

The Minnesota Vikings started preparations Wednesday to face the Carolina Panthers at U.S. Bank Stadium, and several players were missing from practice at TCO Performance Center.

Players who did not participate practice include Harrison Smith, Irv Smith Jr., Ezra Cleveland, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Dru Samia and Jordan Brailford. Adam Thielen was also not at practice after being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Monday.

Also absent from practice was wide receivers coach Andrew Janocko.

Harrison Smith missed Wednesday's practice with a neck injury. Cleveland missed last Sunday’s game due to an ankle injury suffered at Chicago that he played through most of the game, and Odenigbo was shaken up late in Sunday’s loss to Dallas. He missed practice with a shoulder/concussion.

Irv Smith Jr. returned in Minnesota’s loss to the Cowboys after missing Monday Night Football against the Chicago Bears with a groin injury, but was limited in Wednesday's practice.

Samia was reinstated from the COVID-19 list Wednesday after testing positive and spending 10 days in quarantine. Mike Zimmer on Wednesday didn’t have an update on Thielen’s status for Sunday’s game. Thielen had eight catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday, and currently leads the NFL with 11 receiving touchdowns through 10 games.

“I don’t know. Obviously he’s in the COVID protocol. When you get in these protocols, it’s always about what’s the next test, the next test, so we’ll just have to see as the week goes on,” Zimmer said.

The Vikings missed a golden opportunity to win their fourth straight, get back to .500 for the first time all season and re-enter the NFC Playoff conversation in Sunday's loss to the Cowboys. The Vikings are 4-6 and likely need to finish at least 9-7 to contend for a Wild Card spot.