Vikings guard Nick Easton out for the season following neck surgery

EAGAN, Minn. -- Already ravaged by minor injuries, the Vikings' offensive line suffered a major blow Thursday morning, Aug. 9, when left guard Nick Easton had surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck.
Minnesota Vikings offensive guard Nick Easton (62) prepares to throw a block during the first quarter of game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh on Sept. 17, 2017. Mark Konezny / USA TODAY Sports

EAGAN, Minn. - Already ravaged by minor injuries, the Vikings' offensive line suffered a major blow Thursday morning, Aug. 9, when left guard Nick Easton had surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck.

While the injury is not expected to be career-threatening, coach Mike Zimmer confirmed that the Vikings will place Easton on injured reserve, effectively ending his season before it begins.

"Nothing really happened," Zimmer said of how Easton got hurt. "He's got a bulging disc. I'm not going to talk about it."

Easton spent the first part of training camp filling in at center with Pat Elflein on the Physically Unable to Perform list as he recovers from a shoulder injury and an ankle injury.

But Easton has not practiced since last Friday, and a source told the Pioneer Press earlier this week that the 26-year-old guard was dealing with discomfort in his neck. He had an MRI, according to a source, and those results were sent to Dr. Jack Kelley, an orthopedic specialist in New Haven, Conn., who performed the surgery.

With Easton out of the lineup, untested Cornelius Edison has taken over at center with Rosemount native Tom Compton playing left guard and Danny Isidora filling in at right guard as Mike Remmers recovers from an ankle injury.

"I've been out there getting some reps," said Compton, who signed with the Vikings as a free agent this offseason. "I'm confident in what we've got going on.

"Whenever I've entered free agency I've tried to find a place with a good fit and a good spot to compete," he added. "That was the case here, and I'm trying to take that opportunity and run with it."

Compton has been on the team's radar for a few years, according to Zimmer, thanks in large part to the versatility he displayed during his four seasons with the Washington Redskins, from 2012-15.

"When he was (with the Redskins) he played quite a bit," Zimmer said. "He played some of their big package. He played on the offensive line at multiple positions. We felt like he'd be good."

Still, replacing Easton won't be an easy task. He started 12 games for the Vikings last season before fracturing his right ankle during a Week 16 victory over the Packers in Green Bay. He missed the playoffs but, after fully recovering from surgery, was expected to start at left guard this season.

"He's a tough guy that does a great job of finding a way to get his job done," Zimmer said of Easton. "That's the best way to say it. He's very athletic and he doesn't give (opponents) the same thing (twice)."

"He's like a gnat," nose tackle Linval Joseph. "You can't get rid of him. He's always going to be on your backside even if you beat him."

If the Vikings don't feel confident in Compton or Isidora taking a majority of the reps with Easton out, there's the possibility of combing the free agent market.

"We are looking at all free agent areas," Zimmer said. "That's what (the front office guys) do at night. They come in here and watch."

A source told the Pioneer Press that the Vikings already reached out to the retired Joe Berger to see if he had any interest in coming back, but he told them he plans to remain retired. Berger played for the Vikings from 2011-17, making 55 starters over the past five seasons.

"I know everybody's nervous about our offensive line," Zimmer said. "I like the mentality of those guys. I like how they work. I'm around them quite a bit. They are going to figure out a way to get it done."