“Just trying to make sure it doesn’t turn to a long-term thing. I’ve been in some pain, but it’s nothing that I haven’t pushed through before,” he said after Friday’s practice. “I’m just going to take it easy this week. I’m going to be a little mad not being able to play, but I’m still going to be cheering on my teammates.”
McKinnon leads the team with 538 yards rushing on 113 carries and is the only Viking with more than 10 carries in any game since Oct. 2 against the Green Bay Packers, when Matt Asiata was still the starter.
McKinnon said the training staff made the decision that he would sit against the Panthers and he is hoping it doesn’t turn into a long-term issue. Although he was listed on the injury report last week with the same lower back designation, he said it didn’t limit him in the game against the Green Bay Packers.
“I played with pain before, greater pain, and I don’t think it’s something affected me or affected the way I play in any way,” he said. “I’m still in there giving it all I’ve got for my teammates.”
McKinnon said he injured his back lifting weights, and his injury sets up more playing time for Joe Banyard, who had a solid game last week in his first regular-season action, getting 26 yards on five carries.
“He extended drives, he caught the ball and extended drives and made plays,” Zimmer said. “I thought he showed some juice getting to the perimeter a couple of plays and was explosive hitting holes.
“That’s kind of how he was in the preseason, he just hasn’t really had the opportunities. He will continue to get opportunities and hopefully he will continue to showcase his abilities.”
Running back Ben Tate, acquired last week on waivers from the Cleveland Browns, could also see his first action as a Viking. He was active last week but didn’t play.
“It would have been tough, but the little plays that they wanted me to know, I knew them so if I got in the game it would have definitely been limited so I understand why I didn’t get put in the game,” Tate said. “But this week I definitely took another step forward for learning things.”
Tate said he should know everything that might be asked of him this week. McKinnon said Banyard in the last week’s game and Tate in practice this week showed encouraging signs.
“Just the ability to make plays, the ability to hit the hole and make a defender miss. The good thing about them is when they hit the hole they’re real decisive,” McKinnon said. “When they hit it, they hit at full speed and they can get to the next level really easily.”
The Vikings had several other questions about their health after Wednesday, when S Harrison Smith (shoulder/ankle), WR Cordarrelle Patterson (knee), DT Sharrif Floyd (knee) and TE Chase Ford (hamstring/foot) were all held out of practice.
Smith returned to practice on Thursday on a limited basis and was a full participant Friday, being listed as probable. Floyd was limited Friday and is questionable. Patterson and Ford were held out of the team’s Thanksgiving practice but were limited on Friday. Ford is questionable but Patterson is probable.
“I don’t know that it gives us an advantage,” Zimmer said about the team’s familiarity with Remmers. “I know our guys have gone up against him a few times. He knows our guys too. It’s always a two-way street.”