In addition to TE Irv Smith’s thumb-surgery announcement on Tuesday, another minor injury surfaced for the Minnesota Vikings.
Running back and kick returner Kene Nwangwu is “day to day” with a soft tissue leg injury.
Smith is expected to be ready for the Vikings opener against the Green Bay Packers, whereas Nwangwu is likely to return later this week.
The Vikings began the padded-practice edition of training camp on Monday with surprisingly few injuries to note. WR Blake Proehl and LB Ryan Connelly remain on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, while CB Nate Hairston exited the Non-Football Injury (NFI) list to start the week.
Now, reality sets in as Minnesota acclimates to injuries like several other teams around the NFL.
Nwangwu made splashy headlines in 2021 as a rookie, using his deadly speed to return two kickoffs for touchdowns against the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers. He also accounted for 61 rushing yards on 13 carries.
The Iowa State alumnus is also a fashionable pick for emergence inside the Vikings new offense, led by first-year head coach Kevin O’Connell. Nwangwu wasn’t utilized much on offense as a rookie, instead hanging his hat on special teams performance. He was even tabbed recently by ESPN as a “Top 25 Breakout Prospect” via Football Outsiders’ Rivers McCown, “Nwangwu has very little chance of making an offensive impact this year beyond injury chaos, but he’s so explosive with the ball that we couldn’t leave him off your radar.”
Minnesota also employs Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, plus rookies Ty Chandler and Bryant Koback on the current 90-man roster, so Nwangwu’s teensy absence isn’t much to fear.
If the soft-tissue injury lingered, though, the Vikings would be tasked with finding an alternative kick returner — probably Jalen Nailor, Ihmir Smith-Marstte, K.J. Osborn, or Albert Wilson.
Nwangwu ran a 4.29 forty-yard dash during the lead-up to the 2021 NFL Draft.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).