Purple Rumor Mill: Irv Smith, Path to Resting Starters, Lynch + Bradbury on the Shelf

Purple Rumor Mill: Face of Franchise Says Bye to Twitter, Blough Time, CB in the Draft
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports.

VikingsTerritory’s Purple Rumor Mill is a two-day chronicle each week. All the week’s rumors are lassoed and plopped in two spots — articles on Saturday and Sunday — for review. Today is the December 31st edition.

Remember — rumors are rumors. What you read on weekends in these pieces is what the world is talking about pertaining to the Vikings, not necessarily items that will come to fruition.

Purple Rumor Mill: Irv Smith, Path to Resting Starters, Lynch + Bradbury on the Shelf

Rumor: Irv Smith is on track to return for the playoffs.

Path to Resting Starters
Irv Smith Jr.

Irv Smith could actually return this week — or basically “whenever.” The Vikings designated Smith to return this week, so it’s Minnesota deciding his health-based timetable.

The team could keep him on the shelf until the playoffs to be safe, but the offense has played just fine without him. Therefore, he isn’t required like before the T.J. Hockenson trade.

The TE1 gig now absolutely belongs to Hockenson, and Smith will revert to his TE2 status from 2019. In theory, Kevin O’Connell could utilize the embarrassment of riches with two productive TEs on offense. But “just Hockenson” seems to work for the current iteration of Vikings.

Rumor: The Vikings could rest starters in Week 18 at Chicago, preventing Justin Jefferson from chasing individual history.

Justin Jefferson Has 1
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

There’s one way that Bears-Vikings would become meaningless:

  • a Vikings Win over GB in Week 17
  • a 49ers loss at LV in Week 17
  • an Eagles win vs. NO in Week 17

Then, Minnesota would be locked into the No. 2 seed, and nothing could undo it. And that’s the only method if you want to see starters rested in Week 18.

This is an easy way of saying that the Bears-Vikings contest is close to a lock as meaningful. The 49ers probably aren’t losing to the Jarrett Stidham-led Raiders. Plus, the Vikings are underdogs at Green Bay on Sunday.

Even if Week 18 was technically meaningless, O’Connell might still let Jefferson pursue all the records. Perhaps Jefferson could nail the feats down this week — and problem solved?

Rumor: Garrett Bradbury and James Lynch are probably on the shelf until the postseason.

Vikings Depth Chart -- Week 16 vs. Giants
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) and center Garrett Bradbury. © Danielle Parhizkaran/NorthJersey.com, North Jersey Record via Imagn Content Services, LLC.

Bradbury is on tap to miss his fourth straight game, so it makes sense now to put him on the shelf until the weekend of January 14th, when the postseason begins. Lynch, too, is out until then.

All of a sudden, Bradbury is a commodity that fans don’t want to live without. It’s a pretty cool about-face because folks spent most of the spring and summer figuring out ways for Minnesota to sign JC Tretter — or anybody, really — instead of Bradbury. But with the tutelage of O’Connell’s coaching staff and Bradbury’s natural career progression, he’s blossomed into an upper-echelon center.

And Bradbury has been so productive that Minnesota’s brass must determine if he’s worth the megabucks in March. Bradbury will be a free agent in 2023.

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).