Redemption Game for Former Viking Is Kaput

Sep 27, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks (54) and San Diego Chargers offensive tackle Chris Hairston (75) dive for a fumble during the first quarter at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

Barring injury, the Minnesota Vikings take on beloved former fan-favorite wide receiver Adam Thielen next weekend, but before that, the club was supposed to see another ex-Viking in Week 3.

But that won’t happen when the Los Angeles Chargers arrive in Minneapolis on Sunday, as linebacker Eric Kendricks will miss the pivotal contest with a hamstring injury.

Redemption Game for Former Viking Is Kaput

The Chargers ruled Kendricks out Friday, along with running back Austin Ekeler. Four-time Pro Bowler Joey Bosa, an EDGE rusher, is questionable.

Redemption Game
Jul 26, 2023; Costa Mesa, CA, USA; Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Eric Kendricks (6) signs autographs during training camp at Jack Hammett Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Minnesota said goodbye to Kendricks in March amid an offseason of change, including the departures of Dalvin Cook, Patrick Peterson, Dalvin Tomlinson, Irv Smith, Za’Darius Smith, Cameron Dantzler, Duke Shelley, and the aforementioned Thielen, among others.

Soon after, Kendricks latched onto the Chargers roster, a hop, skip, and jump away from his college stomping grounds, UCLA.

Already a Locker
Oct 1, 2017; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks (54) runs onto the field before the game against the Detroit Lions at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

Kendricks and Vikings fans had this Sunday’s matchup circled when the schedule dropped in May, as Kendricks would take on the Vikings for the first time as an opponent. But Kendricks missed last weekend’s contest against the Tennessee Titans, a loss that sent the team to 0-2, and will now be absent for at least one more game.

Los Angeles will likely turn to second-year linebacker Nick Niemann in Kendricks’s stead, a draft pick 17 months ago from the 6th Round. Veteran defender Tanner Muse is Niemann’s backup.

November 13, 2022; Santa Clara, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Nick Niemann (31) is congratulated by linebacker Kyle Van Noy (8) after a blocked punt against the San Francisco 49ers during the second quarter at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports.

Kendricks logged 575 total tackles with the Vikings from 2015 to 2022, the most of any Vikings player during the timeframe.

Minnesota drafted Kendricks in the 2nd Round of the 2015 NFL Draft, the same event that netted Danielle Hunter and Stefon Diggs. It took a couple of seasons for Kendricks to metamorphize into an otherworldly defender, but when he did, he was an All-Pro contributor.

Will Brian Flores Bring Kendricks' Replacement With Him?
Jul 28, 2022; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks (54) during training camp at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Kendricks earned a Pro Bowl and 1st-Team All-Pro nod in 2019, coincidentally the last time Minnesota won a playoff game. Kendricks played most of his career in purple with college teammate Anthony Barr — also a linebacker — before Barr bolted for the Dallas Cowboys in 2022.

Against the Miami Dolphins in Week 1, Kendricks fired up a 54.9 Pro Football Focus grade, a shootout loss to start the season.

Kendricks said sayonara and thanked Vikings fans on Instagram in March, “Minnesota, I gave you my all. They told me it was a business, but I’ll always treat it like the game I love. Heart on my sleeve for everyone to see. I don’t know any other way. Skol.”

The Vikings are favored by a point to defeat Kendricks’ team on Sunday and salvage an 0-2 start to the season.

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 Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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