EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings plan to be without a defensive team captain and their primary "green dot" player.
On Monday, Head Coach Kevin O'Connell said linebacker Jordan Hicks developed compartment syndrome – a condition where pressure increases within a muscle compartment – after bruising his shin in the first half of Sunday's 27-19 victory over the Saints.
Hicks initially exited the game on the Saints first drive. He returned after halftime but did not finish the game.
O'Connell said when swelling increased after the game, team officials decided to transport him from U.S. Bank Stadium to a local hospital. There Hicks had a procedure and remained hospitalized Monday afternoon, O'Connell added.
The team does not expect Hicks to be available this week as he recovers. Minnesota plays at Denver on Sunday night before hosting the Bears the following Monday night. The Vikings then have a Week 13 bye.
"After the game, it was swelling up pretty good, and under the recommendation of [Vice President of Player Health and Performance] Tyler [Williams], [Head Athletic Trainer] Uriah [Myrie] and our medical team, we decided to get Jordan evaluated at a local hospital where he did need kind of a procedure to address some of the complications from that direct trauma to his lower leg, kind of to relieve some of the pressure that was in there, and he's doing well today," O'Connell said. "It is something more than likely that will cause him to miss at least this week. We'll make sure Jordan continues to get that great care and hope to have him back in the facility as soon as possible."
O'Connell said he planned to visit Hicks soon. He also praised the Vikings medical team for acting quickly, accurately and in Hicks' best interest.
Here are four more takeaways from O'Connell's press conference with local media.
- Who Wears the Green Dot?
Hicks has played more than 600 defensive snaps – fourth most on the team – and has not missed a game since 2018. For Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores, Hicks is the quarterback of the defense. His helmet features a communications device that allows Flores to deliver play calls that Hicks then relays to the Vikings 10 other defenders.
The nine-year veteran also leads the team in tackles. His interception, forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and a touchdown this season have helped swing several games during the team's five-game winning streak.
O'Connell said rookie linebacker Ivan Pace, Jr., took over green dot duties in lieu of Hicks. Pace played 56 defensive snaps on Sunday, the most of his career since logging 61 plays in Week 2 against the Eagles.
"It's going to be a huge thing. Jordan's been – I can't even put into words how important he's been with what we do on defense, how he's communicated. Played a ton of snaps for us and getting us into calls, adjustments in games, adjustments in play," O'Connell said. "So, more than likely, Ivan Pace will handle the green dot duties, and we'll have a plan for what that looks like in addition to Ivan."
According to O'Connell, Pace, linebacker Troy Dye, and safeties Josh Metellus and Harrison Smith will all be considered for the green dot. Pace also was the defense's green dot player during the preseason.
- The return of Justin Jefferson
The Vikings could have star receiver Justin Jefferson back soon.
O'Connell said Jefferson will continue to ramp up his workload as part of the rehab process for the hamstring injury that landed him on Injured Reserve following Week 5.
Last Wednesday, Jefferson returned to practice for the first time since early October. Returning to practice activated the 21-day window in which Minnesota can elevate him to the 53-man roster.
O'Connell added the team will continue to be "smart" with Jefferson. In his absence, the team has gone 5-0. Offensively, it's been an ensemble effort to fill Jefferson's All-Pro production, led by tight end T.J. Hockenson and rookie receiver Jordan Addison.
"It's going to be a major, major boost for us, getting the best receiver in football back out there," O'Connell said. "With the group and the confidence that this group has had kind of overcoming him not being out there with us."
- Quarterbacks returning?
It's been a few weeks since the Vikings have had more than two healthy quarterbacks available on game day. That could change this week.
Quarterback Nick Mullens is nearing a return from a back injury that landed him on Injured Reserve in Week 6. O'Connell said the team hopes to open Mullen's 21-day activation window this week and see how the fifth-year quarterback handles ramping up.
O'Connell said rookie quarterback Jaren Hall should also be back at practice this week. Hall started at Atlanta last week before exiting with a concussion on the team's first drive.
"It's been a few weeks since we've had three healthy quarterbacks available, so we'll work through that throughout the week," O'Connell said. "We're going to make sure we have Sean [Mannion] here, as well. In addition to what he's been in the quarterbacks room for those guys, we also feel like Sean is a viable option for us with his understanding and arm talent to move the football team as well."
To no surprise, O'Connell named Joshua Dobbs the team's Week 11 starter. Mannion was elevated from the practice squad to backup Dobbs against the Saints.
- Updates on Akayleb Evans, Marcus Davenport & Alexander Mattison
Outside linebacker Marcus Davenport is eligible to return from Injured Reserve, but O'Connell said the team is unlikely to activate him this week. Since landing on IR, Davenport had a procedure to address the high-ankle sprain that has kept him out since Week 6.
Cornerback Akayleb Evans left Sunday's game with a lower leg strain. O'Connell said Evans is considered day-to-day. Evans played 39 snaps before exiting in the third quarter. Rookie Mekhi Blackmon filled in and notched his first NFL interception with three minutes to play.
Blackmon played 36 snaps and earned the second-highest defensive Pro Football Focus grade on the team, behind only Evans' game-high 81.3 grade.
O'Connell said running back Alexander Mattison is in concussion protocol and did not speculate about potential availability for the team's leading rusher. Mattison exited the game in the third quarter after a 3-yard run where he was tackled by Saints linebackers Demario Davis and Pete Werner.
In his absence, Ty Chandler had 45 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries.
"We've got Ty [Chandler], who did some really good things and has shown a lot of good things showing his explosiveness, his burst. The more work we can get Ty, the better," O'Connell said. "I thought Kene [Nwangwu] came in and had some nice touches there, getting outside on one of the gap plays, and then we'll evaluate. We have a lot of confidence in Deebo (DeWayne McBride), whether potentially there's a practice squad call-up there and potential depth moves, we'll continue to work through that."