Dalton Risner has been biding his time on the sidelines. Now the Vikings have made their decisions clear about him.

Dalton Risner has been biding his time on the sidelines. Now the Vikings might need him.
He got into the game last weekend after left guard Ezra Cleveland went down with a foot injury.
Minnesota Vikings guard Dalton Risner (66) talks along the sidelines during the first half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023, in Minneapolis.
When veteran offensive lineman Dalton Risner signed with the Vikings last month, it seemed like only a matter of time before he was in the starting lineup, whether that be in place of left guard Ezra Cleveland or right guard Ed Ingram.
Instead, the 28-year-old Risner has been biding his time on the sidelines. After starting 62 games with the Denver Broncos earlier in his career, Risner has lived the life of a backup for the first time in his career.
How has he handled that change?
“Every time I have he desire to get onto the field, I ask myself, ‘What can I control?’ ” Risner said. “Then I work my (expletive) off to make sure I’m ready when I’m called upon.”
That time finally came for Risner last weekend when Cleveland suffered a foot injury with the Vikings leading the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Risner raced into the huddle and played 10 snaps on offense in relief.
“I was able to go out there and execute,” Risner said. “That’s what I want to be able to do.”
His performance garnered praise from head coach Kevin O’Connell.
“You can tell the game makes sense to him when he’s in there no matter the post snap movement or the look of the defense,” O’Connell said. “He can adapt and get the job done regardless of the circumstances of the match, such as when facing a team that moves a lot forward.”
That was the same assessment from offensive coordinator Wes Phillips.
“He did everything we asked him to do,” Phillips said. He played very hard and ran around the field when he got points, trying to eliminate his opponents before the match ended. He worked on his technique and fundamentals. Has a nice calming presence.
That’s something the Vikings can count on when they host the San Francisco 49ers on Monday Night Football. Though there hasn’t been any official word on Cleveland’s availability for the primetime game, he hasn’t practiced this week, meaning Risner could get the nod.
It would be a much different perspective for Risner after spending the past month watching from the sidelines while also making sure he was ready at a moment’s notice.
“A guy can go down and there’s maybe a 30-second window to get in the game,” Risner said. “You’ve got to stay prepared. You’ve got to stay locked in. You need to know what everyone is doing there.
Meanwhile, Risner knew he likely still wouldn’t participate in the match. Such is the life of an NFL backup. “You never know, and that’s the hardest part,” Risner said. “It takes a lot of discipline.”
Risner never thought about asking for more playing time, he prided himself on being a good teammate and helping everyone around him become better.
“I’m going to show up, put my head down, and go to work,” Risner said. “I want to earn the respect of this locker room, and I want to do that without saying a word.”
He’s done that with his preparation in practices. Now he needs to continue to do that with his play in games.

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