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Vikings rule out Eric Kendricks, activate Michael Pierce from injured reserve

Running back and kickoff returner Kene Nwangwu is questionable for the game due to an illness.

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Detroit Lions running back D'Andre Swift (32) and Minnesota Vikings middle linebacker Eric Kendricks (54) in action during the game between the Detroit Lions and the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Jerome Miron / USA Today Sports
USA TODAY Sports

DETROIT — The Minnesota Vikings on Saturday got one starter back on defense but lost another.

Linebacker Eric Kendricks, who had been listed Friday as questionable due to a biceps injury, was downgraded to out for Sunday’s game against Detroit at Ford Field. The Vikings did get back nose tackle Michael Pierce, who was activated off injured reserve after missing seven games with an elbow injury and is expected to start against the Lions.

The Vikings made a flurry of moves Saturday before flying to Detroit. They also waived defensive end Eddie Yarbrough, activated defensive end Kenny Willekes to the roster off the practice squad as a COVID-19 replacement, elevated safety Myles Dorn and fullback Jake Bargas off the practice squad and announced that running back and kickoff returner Kene Nwangwu is questionable for the game due to an illness. A source Minnesota has interest in re-signing Yarbrough to the practice squad.

The Vikings also announced that defensive backs coach Karl Scott will miss the game due to COVID protocols and that assistant defensive backs coach/safeties coach Roy Anderson will take over his duties against the Lions.

Kendricks was limited in practice on Wednesday, sat out Thursday and was limited Friday. There is additional concern at linebacker considering that Anthony Barr, who suffered a hamstring injury in last Sunday’s 34-26 loss at San Francisco, is listed as questionable for Sunday.

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The Vikings on Saturday did not activate cornerback Patrick Peterson, who was placed last Monday on the COVID-19 reserve list after testing positive. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said Friday that Peterson, who is fully vaccinated and needed to have two negative tests 24 hours apart to be eligible to play Sunday, was “close” to returning and that “maybe” he would.

Instead, Peterson will miss his fourth game out of the past six, the first three coming when he was on injured reserve with a hamstring injury. He again will be replaced by Cameron Dantzler.

The Vikings on Friday had ruled out running back Dalvin Cook (shoulder), tackle Christian Darrisaw (ankle) and reserve safety Camryn Bynum (ankle). Alexander Mattison will start for Cook and Rashod Hill will take over for Darrisaw.

Mattison’s anticipated backup has been Nwangwu, who has returned two kickoffs this season for touchdowns. If Nwangwu’s health hampers him, the Vikings could use fullback C.J. Ham as the backup running back and then use Bargas at fullback. They elected not to elevate running back A.J. Rose Jr. off the practice squad.

Zimmer on Friday said he anticipated that Pierce, who was hurt Oct. 3 against Cleveland, would be activated to face the Lions to help their depleted line. Last Sunday against the 49ers, the Vikings were without all four of their preferred starters on the defensive line.

Also returning Sunday will be defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson, who missed one game while on the COVID list. Remaining out will be defensive ends Danielle Hunter, lost for the season on Oct. 31 with a shoulder injury, and Everson Griffen, on the non-football illness list.

Willekes will return to action Sunday after missing three straight games, one while on a COVID list and two when he still wasn’t healthy. Because he is a COVID replacement, he still has one standard elevation left this season off the practice squad.

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