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Vikings center Garrett Bradbury to start vs. Giants after missing 5 games with back injury

Blake Brandel could start at right tackle after missing 4 games with a knee injury

SPORTS-CENTER-GARRETT-BRADBURY-HOPES-EXTRA-1-SP.jpg
Minnesota Vikings center Garrett Bradbury (56) looks over the Oakland defense in the second quarter of an NFL football game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Sept. 22, 2019. The Vikings beat Oakland,34-14.
John Autey / Pioneer Press
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EAGAN, Minn. — Center Garrett Bradbury is back for the Minnesota Vikings, and ready to take on Dexter Lawrence.

Bradbury missed the past five games due to a lower back injury. But he was given no injury designation Friday, and will start in Sunday’s playoff game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. That means contending with Lawrence, the Giants’ Pro Bowl nose tackle, and some other stalwarts on the defensive line.

“It’s a tall task for us, but it’s what you want," Bradbury said.

Sitting out the past 1½ months was tough for Bradbury, a four-year veteran who was having his best NFL season. He was initially injured Dec. 4 against the New York Jets, and then aggravated the injury in a minor car accident on Dec. 17.

Bradbury was deemed to be close to returning when he was limited in practice before the first two games he missed. But after the car accident he didn’t practice at all until this week.

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The week went well. Bradbury was a limited participant in Wednesday’s workout and then a full participant Thursday and Friday.

“It was huge,” Bradbury said, going through Thursday’s padded practice with no issues. “You got to play football. You got to see how you feel playing football, and not just running and pushing the sled. So to do that was awesome. It’s good to be back out there with the guys. I feel great. The training room did an awesome job.”

After Bradbury was hurt against the Jets, the Vikings started Austin Schlottmann for four games at center until he suffered a season-ending ankle injury on Minnesota’s fifth offensive play Jan. 1 at Green Bay. He was replaced for the rest of that game and for last Sunday’s regular-season finale at Chicago by Chris Reed, who had been the third-stringer.

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Reed would have been in line to start against the Giants had Bradbury’s week of practice not gone well. But it went very well.

“(Bradbury) demonstrated a complete readiness to play this weekend,’’ said Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell. “I’m really excited about having Garrett back in there. He’s been huge for us all season long.”

Bradbury’s return means the Vikings won’t enter the playoffs with two reserve offensive linemen going against the Giants, who blitz as much as any team in the NFL. Against the Packers, the Vikings also lost star right tackle Brian O’Neill for the season with an Achilles injury. He was replaced for the rest of that game and for the Chicago game by Oli Udoh.

But there is no guarantee Udoh will be in the lineup against the Giants. Blake Brandel, who was the swing tackle ahead of Udoh before suffering a torn MCL in his right knee Dec. 11 at Detroit, will be activated off injured reserve Saturday after missing four games. O’Connell called Brandel “ready to go full” on Sunday and said there is a chance he could start over Udoh.

“Yeah,’’ O’Connell said. “We have had that dialogue inside our position rooms and coaching staff. I think we’ve got a good plan.”

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Brandel and Udoh both have declined to speculate on who will start at right tackle.

“We just have to get to Sunday and find out,’’ Udoh said.

At least the Vikings will get back Bradbury. He was rated during the regular season by Pro Football Focus as the NFL’s No. 10 center.

“It’s a great feeling to have Garrett back,’’ said star left tackle Christian Darrisaw. “He kind of leads the group and he kind of keeps us all on the same page. He’s having a great season.”

Bradbury said the main issue that kept him out the five games was continued soreness in his lower back. He spent plenty of time working with the training staff.

“A lot of core work,’’ Bradbury said. “I was hoping to have a six-pack by now but I don’t, so I blame the trainer for that. But just a lot of work. It was a lot of tedious small muscle work.”

Bradbury said by last weekend he was optimistic he would be back for the playoffs.

“The whole past week, I’ve been feeling great,’’ he said. “So last Saturday, I did some stuff on the field with some trainers (and) Monday ran through and did some sleds. They just kind of had me on a slow ramp this whole time knowing what the end goal was, and it kind of timed up perfectly.”

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The end goal has become a date with Lawrence and the Giants defensive line. And Bradbury vows to be up for the challenge.

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This story was written by one of our partner news agencies. Forum Communications Company uses content from agencies such as Reuters, Kaiser Health News, Tribune News Service and others to provide a wider range of news to our readers. Learn more about the news services FCC uses here.

Related Topics: MINNESOTA VIKINGS
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