One of the most impressive elements of the Minnesota Vikings’ four-game winning streak is that it came entirely without the help of their best player – wide receiver Justin Jefferson.
Jefferson left the team’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Oct. 8 with a hamstring strain and landed on IR, a designation that requires a player to remain inactive for at least four weeks. That period ended after Sunday’s comeback win against the Atlanta Falcons, opening up an opportunity for Jefferson to return to the roster.
Head coach Kevin O’Connell discussed Jefferson’s status on Monday, bringing both good and bad news to his situation.
“‘It’s possible we open his (21-day) window on Wednesday,’ Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell said of WR Justin Jefferson.” CBS’s Jonathan Jones wrote on X. “Talking about a practice window given that Jefferson can return from IR this week would indicate that Vikes does not expect JJ to play against the Saints on Sunday.”
Justin Jefferson’s return to the Vikings coincides with a winnable game plan
Doctors initially said Jefferson’s injury would keep him out for four to six weeks, and Jones reported that it was unlikely the wideout would play this weekend against New Orleans given that schedule. O’Connell insisted that Minnesota would not rush to bring its All-Pro back from injury, which he said might require protecting Jefferson from himself.
The Vikings’ success since Jefferson’s injury has ensured the team doesn’t push him back, as they have been able to win without him, even in the absence of quarterback Kirk Cousins. New starter Josh Dobbs entered Sunday’s game against Atlanta with extremely limited knowledge of the game plan and no experience with his center or wide receivers, but was still able to lead Minnesota on a game-winning drive that ended in a touchdown and there were only 22 seconds left on the clock.
Dobbs’ performance bodes incredibly well for the Vikings, who have a reasonable schedule ahead of them, including their next matchup against the Denver Broncos (3-5), Chicago Bears (2-7) and Las Vegas Raiders (4-5). Games scheduled for the Saints (5-4). Jefferson’s return, if it occurs, will further increase Minnesota’s chances of making the playoffs. The wideout led the NFL in scoring 543 reception yards He scored 28 more points against the Chiefs early in Week 5 before the hamstring injury sidelined him.
Vikings are expected to extend Justin Jefferson in the offseason
While the playoffs are now a realistic possibility for the Vikings, Jefferson also has other incentives to return. In fact, he is eligible for a contract extension and is expected to sign the richest contract for a wide receiver in NFL history.
Minnesota and Jefferson negotiated a new deal last offseason but never came to an agreement. The Vikings are in the process of turning around their once-expensive, veteran-filled roster as the organization shifts to a younger, leaner personnel model. However, there are some exceptions.
Tight end TJ Hockenson was the latest exception, signing a historic four-year deal. $66 million deal which has the potential to be the richest in history for its position with incentives. Jefferson represents another exception, with Spotrac estimating its market value at $29.3 million per year on a new four-year contract.
Max Dible covers the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns and Golden State Warriors for Heavy.com. He covered local and national news as a reporter for West Hawaii Today and served as news director for BigIslandNow.com and Pacific Media Group’s family of Big Island radio stations before joining Heavy. More about Max Dible
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