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Zulgad’s Roundup: The impact of Ibrahim’s injury, the Wild’s plan at center, the Darrisaw dilemma

Ohio St Minnesota Football
Minnesota running back Mohamed Ibrahim (24) rushes as Ohio State cornerback Lejond Cavazos (4) stops him in the third quarter of an NCAA college football game Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021, in Minneapolis. Ohio State won 45-31. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)

News, notes and thoughts from a busy time on the Minnesota sports scene. Zulgad’s Roundup is back:

  • Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said star running back Mohamed Ibrahim will be lost for the season after suffering a lower left leg injury (believed to be a torn Achilles’) in the opener on Thursday against Ohio State. Ibrahim is a two-time 1,000-yard rusher and was considered one of the better running backs in college football. While his loss hurts, the Gophers have plenty of depth at running back and also a veteran and talented offensive line to open rushing lanes for a guy like redshirt sophomore Trey Potts. Remember, the Gophers lost top running back Rodney Smith to a torn ACL in the 2018 season opener. That opened the door for Ibrahim to step in and run for 1,160 yards on 202 carries with nine touchdowns. Bryce Williams, now a redshirt junior, rushed for 502 yards on 117 carries and four touchdowns that season.
  • Write This Down: The Gophers will be 7-1 and 4-1 in the Big Ten entering their Nov. 6 game against Illinois at Huntington Bank Stadium. Those four Big Ten wins will come at Purdue, vs. Nebraska, vs. Maryland and at Northwestern.
  • With the Arizona Coyotes dealing center Christian Dvorak to Montreal for first- and second-round draft picks, it appears unlikely that Wild general manager Bill Guerin will make a significant trade to acquire a veteran center who can slot above Joel Eriksson Ek. The Wild, who will begin training camp in late September, have eight centers listed on their roster. But one player who isn’t on that list is going to be given every opportunity to make the team. Marco Rossi, who was drafted ninth overall by the Wild in 2020 but missed almost all of last season because of complications from COVID-19, is likely to open the season with Minnesota. Rossi will turn 20 on Sept. 23.
  • The reason why there isn’t more concern about the fact that Wild star Kirill Kaprizov has yet to sign a contract is because the talented winger from Russia has no real options, if he wants to play hockey in 2021-22. It’s either play in Minnesota or don’t play at all and the latter doesn’t seem like a good career move. Especially, when the issue appears to be as much or more about term than actual dollars.
  • Prediction: The 76ers end up dealing the disgruntled Ben Simmons before the Sabres trade the disgruntled Jack Eichel. While the Wolves remain a player in the Simmons talks, it seems unlikely Eichel to Minnesota is still a thing.
  • NBC’s Peter King doesn’t have the Vikings making the playoffs. His NFC playoff seeds are 1) Tampa Bay; 2) Green Bay; 3) L.A. Rams; 4) Dallas; 5) San Francisco; 6) New Orleans; and 7) Seattle. If King is correct, odds would seem very high the Vikings will have a new coach, and perhaps a new general manager and quarterback, in 2022.
  • The Vikings drafted Christian Darrisaw with the 23rd pick in the draft last April, thinking he could be plugged in to take over for Riley Reiff at left tackle. Darrisaw had undergone core-muscle surgery to repair a groin issue last January but the feeling was he’d be set to go in the spring. Only that didn’t happen and now there are questions about when Darrisaw will be ready. He underwent another procedure on his groin during training camp and coach Mike Zimmer said the rookie has only taken part in four practices since he joined the team. Darrisaw is expected to participate individual drills in Wednesday’s practice, but veteran backup Rashod Hill be the starter at left tackle for the foreseeable future.
  • Zimmer on Darrisaw: “I think the biggest thing is watching him practice and then we start seeing him and start seeing him develop. Some of those things are going to show up early, especially when he hasn’t practiced in a while. Is it the right footwork? Is he making mistakes? How’s he pass protecting? It’s just going to be an evaluation each week and then when we decide to put him in there, then we do. Or if we do.”
  • Reiff, who spent the past four seasons with the Vikings before departing in a salary-cap move last March, will be the Bengals’ starting right tackle for their regular-season opener on Sunday against Minnesota. Reiff, who had a very good season with the Vikings in 2020 after taking a pay cut in order to stay with the team, signed a one-year contract with the Bengals that guarantees $5.5 million.
  • Shamar Stephen, a seventh-round pick of the Vikings in 2014, started all 16 games at defensive tackle last season in his second stint with Minnesota. Stephen was released after last season and signed with the Denver Broncos. He is now listed as a backup defensive end in the Broncos’ 3-4 defense. Jaleel Johnson, who started all 16 games alongside Stephen last season, was released by the Texans in final cuts last month and is expected to sign with New Orleans.
  • Former Vikings first-round cornerback Trae Waynes, who signed a three-year, $42 million contract last offseason, will not play for the Bengals on Sunday because of hamstring injury. Waynes, the 11th-pick in the 2015 draft, has yet to play a down for Cincinnati after missing all of last season because of an injury to his pectoral muscle.
  • Word is that the Timberwolves, who are scheduled to open training camp late this month and will play their first regular-season game on Oct. 20 against Houston at Target Center, remain in negotiations with Sinclair-owned Bally Sports North on a new television contract. The regional sports network also airs games for the Twins, Wild, United and Lynx. What makes the Wolves-Bally’s negotiations interesting is the fact the team certainly has to have brought up the fact that platforms like YouTube TV and Hulu TV aren’t carrying the RSN. This has left many cord-cutters upset and teams lacking the type of distribution they used to receive. Here’s a story on Sinclair’s plan to deliver its product to more fans and here’s why that might be an issue. Long story short, the teams are caught in the middle of this between their RSN and the distributors and that’s a bad place to be when you want to attracts as many eyeballs as possible.
  • Parting Thought: With Twins manager Rocco Baldelli having recently used the word “rebuild,” one has to wonder how much longer third baseman Josh Donaldson wants to remain in Minnesota and if the Twins will have the ability to move the veteran this offseason? Donaldson will have two years remaining on the four-year, $92 million contract he signed before the 2020 season. Donaldson’s leg issues the past two years, and his age (he turns 36 on Dec. 8), means his value figures to be limited. The Twins, however, might be happy to get his contract off the books.