Bisi Johnson has been turning some Denver Broncos fans into Vikings supporters.
Johnson, a Minnesota rookie wide receiver who grew up in the Denver area and played at Colorado State, will have about 30 family members and friends at Sunday’s game against the Broncos at U.S. Bank Stadium.
“Some of them are Broncos fans but they’re fans of me, so they’re Vikings fans and they’re rooting for the Vikings,’’ Johnson said.
Johnson again will fill in for star wide receiver Adam Thielen, who will miss his third game out of the past four with a hamstring injury. Last Sunday’s 28-24 win at Dallas marked Johnson’s first career start since the Vikings had opened with three tight ends on Oct. 24 against Washington, the first game Thielen missed.
Johnson, a native of Wheat Ridge, Colo., grew up an Indianapolis Colts fan since that was the team his father, Bode, followed. However, Johnson said he did root for the Broncos at times and has had great admiration for some of their top players.
“It’s definitely exciting because I used to watch them all the time on TV, and now I’m playing against them,’’ said Johnson, a seventh-round pick. “I’m playing against (cornerback) Chris Harris and (linebacker) Von Miller. There’s a lot of good players on that team, and it’s crazy that I’ll be on the same field with them. It’s fun and exciting, and that’s what a competitor loves.’’
Thielen was hurt in the first quarter Oct. 20 at Detroit. Including the game against the Lions, Johnson over the past four games has caught nine passes for 96 yards and scored his first two touchdowns. For the season, he has 18 receptions for 190 yards.
“He’s done a really good job,’’ said Vikings coach Mike Zimmer. “He knows all the positions, so he can line up pretty much anywhere. When he’s gotten the opportunities in games, he’s made catches, made big plays, made third-down catches.’’
Zimmer said assistant coach/offensive adviser Gary Kubiak played a key role in recommending that Minnesota draft Johnson. When Johnson was at Colorado State, Kubiak coached the Broncos from 2015-16 and was an adviser from 2017-18.
Safety Jayron Kearse’s future with Minnesota is uncertain. But he gave an indication Saturday of what he expects it will be.
After Kearse tweeted, “Excited for my future,’’ a fan tweeted to him, “Do the Vikings have a place in your future?’’ Kearse responded, “No.’’
Kearse, a reserve his first four years, is in line to be a free agent after the season. He was arrested Oct. 27 in Minneapolis on suspicion of driving under the influence and possession of a firearm without a permit and will have his initial hearing Jan. 30. Zimmer said he was “very, very ticked” off by Kearse’s arrest.
Starting safety Anthony Harris has been ruled out Sunday because of a groin injury. When asked Friday if he could start in Harris’ place, Kearse said, “No comment.’’
If he is healthy, the Vikings could start Andrew Sendejo in Harris’ place. Sendejo, claimed off waivers Nov. 6 from Philadelphia after playing with Minnesota from 2011-18, is questionable with a groin injury.
Denver’s defense looks quite familiar to the Vikings.
The Broncos are coached by Vic Fangio, who was Chicago’s defensive coordinator the previous four years. The Bears beat the Vikings twice last season, allowing an average of just 216 yards per game.
The Broncos have a better defense this season than the Bears. They’re fourth in the NFL, allowing 309.7 yards per game, while Chicago is ninth, giving up 327.3 a game.
“They give us a lot of different looks, very similar to what Chicago did a year ago,’’ Zimmer said.
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins said Denver has “the best defense we will play or have played so far’’ this season.
Former Vikings quarterback Joe Kapp will be on hand for two signings in the Twin Cities for his recently released book that coincides with the 50th anniversary of Super Bowl IV.
Kapp wrote a book with son J.J. Kapp, Robert G. Phelps and Ned Averbuck entitled “Joe Kapp The Toughest Chicano: A Life of Leadership.” He will have signings on Sunday from 4-7 p.m. at AME Sports at Rosedale Center and on Monday from 6-7:30 p.m. at Magers & Quinn Booksellers in Minneapolis.
Kapp led the Vikings in 1969 to a 12-2 record. They lost Super Bowl IV 23-7 to Kansas City on Jan. 11, 1970.