By WCCO-TV Staff

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Vikings defensive tackle Michael Pierce, who has played in only four games this season, has been cleared to return to practice.

Pierce played the first four weeks of the season before injuring his elbow. He missed four games before the Vikings placed him on injured reserve, after which point he missed three more.

The Vikings announced Wednesday Pierce has been designated to return.

The Vikings signed Pierce as a free agent before the 2020 season, but he opted out of playing that year due to COVID-19 concerns.

The team is currently missing its entire starting defensive line. Defensive end Danielle Hunter is out for the season with a torn pec. Fellow end Everson Griffen is on reserve after an incident in which police and mental health professionals responded to his home. And Pierce’s cohort on the interior, Dalvin Tomlinson, is on the COVID-19 reserve list.

Another defensive starter, cornerback Patrick Peterson, is also on the COVID list.

According to Pro Football Reference, the Vikings defense ranks 24th and 30th in points and yards allowed, respectively.

The team is 5-6 coming off a loss to the San Francisco 49ers. They play the Lions in Detroit on Sunday.