Ivan Pace Jr.? Anthony Barr? How will the Vikings proceed at linebacker with Jordan Hicks on IR?

It’s no secret what veteran linebacker Jordan Hicks has meant to the Vikings this season. He’s an unquestioned leader in the locker room, and maybe more importantly, a conduit to the coaching staff whenever the defense is on the field.

As the player who wears green-dot helmet with a direct line of communication to defensive coordinator Brian Flores, Hicks has been tasked with getting everybody in position before the snap. Now that responsibility will fall squarely on somebody else’s shoulders.

After undergoing emergency surgery on Sunday in the immediate aftermath of the Vikings’ 27-19 victory over the New Orleans Saints, Hicks has been placed on injured reserve. He has to miss a minimum of four games, per league rules, which means the earliest he can return is on Christmas Eve when the Vikings play host to the Detroit Lions.

“It’s going to be a huge thing,” head coach Kevin O’Connell said. “I can’t even put into words how important Jordan has been with what we do on defense.”

In the meantime, the Vikings have to press on without Hicks, knowing it’s going to take a village to make up for everything he does on a weekly basis. The expectation is that undrafted rookie linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. will get the first crack at filling the void.

“It’s definitely a big loss for us,” Flores said. “Honestly, I think he’s playing at Pro Bowl level. So as a team, at least this week, we’ve got to rally around some of our younger players, and take care of his many responsibilities within the defense.”

There’s also a chance that veteran linebacker Anthony Barr could help the Vikings after being signed to the practice squad this week. He was a versatile player for the Vikings under longtime head coach Mike Zimmer, so not surprisingly, Flores mentioned a wide array of options when talking about where Barr could make an impact.

“His role will be what he makes it,” Flores said. “He has played inside linebacker. He has played outside linebacker. He has been up at the line of scrimmage. You can kind of envision him playing in some spots with what we do.”

It’s unclear how long it will take Barr to feel comfortable enough to play in a game. That will be determined based on how he performs in practice this week.

As for Hicks, he appears to be on the road to recovery, even though there’s no timetable on his return. He was released from the hospital on Tuesday and took to social media to thank everybody who has reached out to him over the past couple of days.

“The surgery was a huge success, and I’m grateful for all of the doctors, nurses and medical staff who treated me,” Hick wrote in his post on X, the website formerly known as Twitter. “Looking forward to getting back out there with the guys soon!”

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