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Vikings will be minus one of their top players on defense against Buccaneers

Eric Kendricks
Minnesota Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks (54) defends during an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

The Vikings will face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday without one of their best players on defense.

Middle linebacker Eric Kendricks, who did not play last week against Jacksonville after aggravating a calf injury in warmups, was listed as out on the injury report for Sunday’s game in Tampa, Fla. That’s a big loss considering Kendricks’ importance in the Vikings’ defense and how much Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady likes to use tight ends Rob Gronkowski (37 catches, 505 yards and four touchdowns) and Cameron Brate (20 catches, 181 yards and two touchdowns).

The Vikings used veteran Todd Davis, Eric Wilson and Troy Dye at linebacker in their base defense against the Jaguars. Davis, signed in September after being let go by Denver, and Wilson stayed on the field in nickel situations. Kendricks leads the Vikings with 107 tackles this season and also has three interceptions.

The Vikings also will be without backup running back Alexander Mattison, who had an appendectomy last weekend. Tight ends Kyle Rudolph (foot) and Irv Smith Jr. (back) are listed as doubtful and questionable, respectively. Cornerback Jeff Gladney (calf) did not get a designation on the injury report, meaning he should be good to go.

Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Evans, who did not practice on Thursday because of a hamstring injury, was a full participant in Friday’s session and will play.