May 19, 2024

The Vikings have begun the process of bringing Jefferson back; he will not play until he is fully healed.
In some ways, it’s as if he never left the Vikings.
EAGAN, Minnesota (AP) — Justin Jefferson returned to practice with the Minnesota Vikings this week, a significant step toward his return from a hamstring strain that caused his first absence in his stellar career.

In some ways, it’s as if he never left the Vikings.

The AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year for 2022 has been a constant and energetic presence on the sidelines during games and in the building for meetings and walk-throughs throughout the week. Coincidentally, the Vikings have won all four games without him.
“I’m just happy to be a part of this organization with so many people helping me out on and off the field,” he said. “I’m just glad I can keep being that leader on the team, where you can’t say I’m just sitting at home worrying about trying to get back.” I want to be there to help my teammates and be hands-on.”

It’s not uncommon for players on injured reserve who are undergoing longer-term rehabilitation to vanish from the weekly rhythms of team activities. For a record-setting superstar in his fourth year like Jefferson, with whom the Vikings have yet to reach an agreement on a contract extension, delaying his return to protect his value would have been understandable.

But a relentless drive for excellence and dominance is part of what makes Jefferson such an unusual player. Even though the Vikings were 1-4 when he was injured, he said on Thursday that he never considered sitting out the rest of the season.

“That’s an obvious choice. “Whether we didn’t win a game or if we won every single game, I’m always going to want to play football,” Jefferson said in his first interview with reporters since Oct. 5, three days before the injury. “I enjoy watching football. I always say I want to be in the Baseball Hall of Fame. I can’t miss games just for the sake of missing them and because we’re not doing well. “I know I have a big role this season, and I know that every opportunity I get to be on that field, I want to make the most of it.”

Putting Jefferson on the field against the Saints on Sunday would be “probably a little aggressive,” according to coach Kevin O’Connell. He could be out for three more games before returning after the Week 13 bye. Or his reappearance could fall somewhere in the middle.

Regardless of the date, Jefferson has stated that he will not play until he is fully healed.

“A hamstring is a difficult injury because it lingers and it comes back from time to time if you don’t put the right treatment into it,” he said. “I don’t want to go out there 80 or 90% and have the chance of hurting it again.”

The Vikings play at U.S. Bank Stadium on slit film turf, a type of artificial surface that the NFL Players Association wants to phase out because it causes more injuries than the other synthetics used in the league. Several teams have recently changed theirs. The Vikings plan to do so before the start of the next season.

Jefferson admitted to having “a little tightness” in his hamstring prior to the game against Kansas City, in which he slipped while going out for a pass in the fourth quarter. Jefferson, one of the NFL’s best route runners, admitted that his footwork prior to the “freak accident” could have been better.

“It could’ve had a slight issue, but I’m not going to blame it on the turf,” he said, adding, “Every team isn’t going to have the perfect surface.” That just goes to show how important it is for me to be at my best whenever I step onto that field. I don’t want to have any doubts that it will return or continue to linger throughout the season.”

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