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Notebook: Zimmer Praises Nick Easton's 1st Season at Guard

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Vikings starting offensive line of Riley Reiff, Nick Easton, Pat Elflein, Joe Berger and Mike Remmers was intact Saturday night for the first time since Week 5.

The togetherness lasted just a dozen plays, as Easton was hurt late in the first quarter in Minnesota's 16-0 win against Green Bay.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer announced after the game that Easton suffered a fractured ankle and will miss the remainder of the season.

Zimmer on Sunday said he thought Easton, who switched from center to left guard this season, was having a solid season in his first full year as a starter. 

"Nick did a really good job. He's a tough kid, smart, very competitive," Zimmer said. "We'll miss him. And he's very athletic.

"But I thought he played well, really, all year long," Zimmer added. "He had to learn the guard position because we moved him from center to guard early on, and I thought he really got better and better."

Zimmer noted that Easton's versatility was a big factor in helping the Vikings offense vastly improve from last season.

"I think a lot – not just with the screen passes but with some of the other things because he could get to the second level, and he used his athleticism," Zimmer said. "But yeah, I think he had a lot to do with it. We had more athletic guys in there … I thought it helped our offense quite a bit." 

Vikings offensive lineman Jeremiah Sirles, who stepped in for Easton for the final 53 offensive snaps, empathized with the injury.

"I feel terrible for the guy," Sirles said. "I hope he can recover well and have a great career."

Zimmer on Sunday said he did not anticipate adding another lineman to the roster. Sirles can play multiple spots along the offensive line, and rookie Danny Isidora has also seen action this season.

"Yeah, you know, I'll do whatever asked of me," Sirles said. "I know, [Saturday night], probably there's some things I need to clean up on – obviously I left some stuff out there personally – but things to grow on and continue moving forward now.

"If left guard's now my home for the remainder for the remainder of the season, I'll be able to focus on that and continue to get better," Sirles said.

Kicking back and relaxing

The Vikings were one of four teams to play Saturday, leaving 28 other teams to play Sunday and Monday across the NFL.

And because Minnesota was able to get a win on a short week, it now means the Vikings can kick back and relax for the next two days as the rest of the league fights for playoff positioning.

Entering Sunday, the Vikings were the No. 2 seed in the NFC. Minnesota is vying for a first-round bye and is still in contention for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

"I'm still trying to figure out the playoff picture," Vikings safety Harrison Smith said on Sunday. "So if we just focus on ourselves and take care of our business, that's all we can do at this point. It'll be fun to just watch as a fan … watch today and tomorrow."

Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs said he wouldn't be focused on a specific game or two, adding that he generally has football on the tube, no matter what day it is.

"Late in the season, you don't know how things are going to shake out if this team wins or this team loses … it's all predicated on somebody else," Diggs said. "When everyone is locked and loaded, that's when we'll figure it all out."

"I watch all football, not necessarily just for playoff implications," Diggs added. "Just every Monday and every Thursday, my TV is on football because I like watching football."

'A quiet confidence'

Minnesota's defense has allowed just seven points in its past two games, pitching one shutout Saturday night and nearly getting another in Week 15 against Cincinnati.

But Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr was quick to point out that there is always room for improvement, as he noted after Saturday night's game that his unit is always looking for ways to improve.

"[A few] weeks ago we gave up 31 points and 400 yards [against Carolina], so every week is different," Barr said. "You try to come play as hard as you can and get off the field when you can and make the plays that come your way. Hopefully we're peaking at the right time. 

""It's a quiet confidence," Barr later added. "We're a confident group, but we know we haven't accomplished much."


Making a [fashion] statement

Smith was supportive of a teammate Sunday in the Vikings locker room as he wore a sweatshirt that features the profile of running back Latavius Murray sporting a horned Viking helmet.

Murray has a handful of clothing items with his likeness available for purchase at Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes has been known to wear 'Rhodes Closed' gear around the locker room. 

"I try to get all my teammates' stuff, but I have to buy all of it," Smith quipped. "I'm getting no hookups. Between 'Zay' and 'Tay,' they're not hooking me up that much.

"This one is pretty strong," Smith said of the sweatshirt with the image of Murray. "I'd like to hate on it, but it's nice. They did a good job with it."

Smith, who had a pair of interceptions in Saturday night's win, said it might be time to get his own clothing line started. 

"I should consult with these guys," Smith said. "We'll see."

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