EAGAN, Minn. — All signs are pointing to Brett Jones becoming the fourth player to start at right guard for the Vikings in just the 10th game of 2020.
Vikings center Garrett Bradbury and Head Coach Mike Zimmer explained their confidence in Jones, who last started in 2018 when he opened the first three games of Minneota's season at center in place of Pat Elflein.
"Brett is ready to go," Bradbury said. "Brett is an unbelievable teammate and an unbelievable person. He's been ready to go every game since he got into this league."
The Vikings traded a seventh-round pick for Jones during that year's training camp while Elflein was recovering from an injury he suffered in the NFC Championship Game. Once Elflein returned, Jones contributed on special teams the rest of the way, save for three snap against Detroit on Nov. 4, 2018.
Jones played one offensive snap in 2019 when he spent most of the season on Injured Reserve and re-signed this offseason.
Bradbury had been selected with the 18th overall pick, and Elflein moved to left guard last season before opening at right guard in September.
Elflein suffered an injury that required surgery during a practice in Week 2, and Minnesota turned to second-year pro Dru Samia for four starts. When Samia suffered a wrist injury, the Vikings shifted to second-round pick Ezra Cleveland, who had been drafted as a left tackle out of Boise State.
View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of January 4, 2021.
Cleveland started the next four games and showed promise, but he suffered an ankle injury early at Chicago that he played through. He has been ruled out.
Jones has stayed the course through multiple roster moves the Vikings have made this season, maintaining a commitment to the franchise that is closest to his hometown of Weyburn, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Initially cut from the final 53-man roster of 2020, Jones signed to the practice squad a day later, just part of the roster moves that followed.
Sept. 18 — activated from practice squad
Oct. 27 — contract terminated and exposed to waivers
Oct. 28 — opted to rejoin Vikings practice squad despite reports of offers from other teams
Oct. 31 — activated as a COVID-19 replacement
Nov. 8 — activated from practice squad
Nov. 16 — activated from practice squad
Nov. 19 — signed to active roster
"The biggest thing with Brett is that he really likes being here," Zimmer said. "He likes the guys. I know all the guys in the room like him. The coaches like him. I'm sure it was disappointing at the beginning of the year when we did release him, but we wanted to get him back. Fortunately for us, he came back as a veteran practice squad guy, and we were able to elevate him throughout the course of the season. He's done a great job, good kid."
Jones has appeared in eight games this season. According to pro-football-reference.com, all 32 of his snaps have occurred on special teams.
What Jones lacks with recent in-game experience, however, by his mental aptitude and attentive approach.
"Very, very smart … very analytical," Zimmer said. "Tough, competitive, a guy that everybody in the room loves."
Bradbury, who has shown development that the Vikings expected in his second season, said he knows he can count on Jones.
"He's one of the smartest players I've ever been around. When he's not playing, he almost wears the hat of being kind of a coach because he knows so much about defenses and about schemes," Bradbury said. "Brett is going to do an awesome job, and we all know that. Everyone in the room knows that. Everyone in the building knows that. It's just the next-man-up mentality, and he's the right guy for it."
Note: Anyone Jonesing for more on Jones can check out this documentary, Uncharted North: I am Brett Jones, a 21-minute film that released on YouTube this week. I have not had a chance to watch in its entirety but plan to do so.