Friday’s NFL: Vikings sorting out backfield situation

Associated Press
Former Lion Ameer Abdullah is returning kicks for the Vikings and is in the mix to be No. 2 running back.

Eagan, Minn. — Mike Zimmer knows the potential and importance of running back Dalvin Cook to the Minnesota Vikings, so the coach is taking the cautious approach to Cook’s workload during the preseason.

The advantage is two-fold: Cook stays fresh and injury-free, while the Vikings get a long look at a quartet of players who are trying to seize a spot as Cook’s backup.

Former Lion Ameer Abdullah is the veteran of the group, entering just his fifth NFL season. The Vikings drafted Alexander Mattison in the third round this year, and Mike Boone has been a preseason standout. The fourth option, De’Angelo Henderson, signed on July 24 after being waived by the New York Jets.

“I think the key with Matt and Abdulllah and those guys, they’ve got to have a role on the football team,” offensive advisor and assistant head coach Gary Kubiak said.

“When Dalvin steps out of the game or takes his break, we have to continue to go. We can’t be, ‘OK, let’s survive till Dalvin gets back.’ We keep going forward.”

Zimmer, who was mum on whether Cook would play Sunday against Seattle, and Kubiak had reason to be encouraged with the performance in the first preseason game last week at New Orleans. The team rushed for 213 yards, a single-game total the Vikings topped only once last season.

Boone had four carries for 70 yards, including a late 64-yard touchdown run. Abdullah ran the ball four times for 63 yards, including a 42-yard run.

Henderson added seven rushes for 42 yards. Then there was Mattison, who had nine carries for 30 yards and caught a touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins (Michigan State) as the first-team offense scored on its only possession.

“I’ll try to say this the correct way,” Zimmer said, before pausing. “I think Mattison has got a really bright future. I think the other two guys can help in change-of-pace situations.”

Abdullah doubles as the top option on the current depth chart as the kickoff and punt returner. Mattison was drafted out of Boise State after he was second in the FBS in carries last season and rushed for 1,415 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Patriots’ Gordon reinstated

The NFL conditionally reinstated Patriots wide receiver Josh Gordon.

Gordon can rejoin the team Sunday for meetings and conditioning and individual workouts. After that, according to a league statement, “Subject to appropriate progress on clinical care and other arrangements, he will be permitted to participate in team activities, including practice.”

Gordon had been suspended indefinitely since December 2018 for violations of the league’s substance abuse policy.

Injury report

A person familiar with the nature of the injury says Jets linebacker Avery Williamson has a torn knee ligament that will sideline him for the season.

... Chargers safety Derwin James will miss several weeks after being diagnosed with a stress fracture of the fifth metatarsal of his right foot.