Vikings center Elflein to return Sunday after working way back from injuries
EAGAN, Minn. — For the first time in eight months, Pat Elflein will take the field for a game on Sunday. Sept. 23.
The Vikings center suffered a fractured left ankle in January's NFC championship game at Philadelphia. He underwent surgery on the ankle as well as on his shoulder, which he had hurt in December.
Elflein missed all of spring drills, training camp and the preseason and the first two regular-season games. But Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said Friday that Elflein will play Sunday against the Buffalo Bills at U.S. Bank Stadium, although he will not start.
"I've been going full go in practice all week and feeling good and getting back in the rhythm of what it's like to play football here at the highest level,'' Elflein said.
Elflein returned to practice Sept. 2 and initially was limited. He was a full participant in practice for the first time last Wednesday.
Brett Jones snapped to quarterback Kirk Cousins in the first two games and will start again Sunday. Zimmer declined to say exactly how he will use Elflein.
"We have a role for him, and we've talked about it,'' Zimmer said. "We'll see how it goes.''
Although it's rare for a team to replace a center in a game unless there is an injury, Elflein doesn't see any potential problems.
"Brett and Kirk and I, we all work together,'' Elflein said. "We all operate under the same system and make the same calls and doing all that, so it really shouldn't be an issue.''
Elflein's shoulder was slower to heal than his ankle, so there was a long period in which he couldn't snap to Cousins, who signed in March as a free agent. But Elflein said he still got plenty of work done with the quarterback.
"Even when I wasn't physically able to snap the ball to him, I was right there just getting mental reps and listening to him,'' Elflein said.
Elfein took over the starting center job last season as a rookie, and it's unclear when he might regain the spot. There won't be much practice time next week since the Vikings play at the Los Angeles Rams on Thursday.
Elflein, who also can play guard, said he's been working exclusively at center in practices. For now, he's just happy finally to be able to play in a game.
"Injuries unfortunately are part of this game,'' Elflein said. "You don't want it to happen, but sometimes unfortunately it does, so, yeah, it's frustrating. You want to go as fast as possible (to return), but there are certain protocols you have to follow with doctors, and all that. But I'm feeling good now, and happy and excited.''