Irv Smith Jr. Is, Indeed, Injured

PurplePTSD: Good News on Injuries, Updated Depth Chart, Vikings-Packers
Sep 22, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end Irv Smith. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Irv Smith returned to the field on Monday for the first time in pads since August 2021. About 50 minutes later, he left with an apparent injury. Smith then revisited the practice field soon after sans a helmet.

No information about the injury was immediately available Monday afternoon or night, but on Tuesday, the Vikings revealed Smith had a quick turnaround surgery on his thumb.

Smith missed all of the 2021 season due to a torn meniscus. Like every season since 2019, NFL experts and fans have forecasted a productive 2022 campaign for the 23-year-old, but he’ll now have to gingerly navigate the rest of the summer.

Dec 13, 2020; Tampa, Florida, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end Irv Smith. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings drafted Smith in 2019 with a 2nd-Round pick, lofty draft capital for a tight end — especially for a team already employing Kyle Rudolph. Smith and Rudolph split time in 2019 and 2020 as Minnesota’s primary TE targets, allowing Smith to tabulate 676 receiving yards and seven touchdowns on 90 total targets.

In 2021, though, Rudolph left the organization via free agency for the New York Giants. Once again, Smith was on tap for a “breakout season,” one that never arrived due to the meniscus tear. In his stead, Tyler Conklin blossomed to the tune of 593 receiving yards and three touchdowns. But, like Rudolph, Conklin left in free agency five months ago to the New York Jets.

Insert Johnny Mundt.

For the next several weeks, Mundt will likely fill the TE1 role after joining Minnesota from the Los Angeles Rams as a free agent. The 27-year-old has been in the NFL for five years, participating in 47 games — with just 10 career receptions on his resume. He’s never been targeted in a passing offense more than seven times in a single season. And so far in training camp, Mundt has been a pleasant surprise, even before the Smith-thumb malady hit.

Mundt explained to KSTP’s Darren Wolfson about the Vikings new offense this week, “It’s a great marriage of the run and the pass, and some very urgent playcalling. Just an uptempo offense, and it’s going to be very exciting.”

Oct 26, 2020; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Rams tight end Johnny Mundt. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Well, Mundt will receive an up-close-and-personal view of that uptempo offense even more now with Smith indefinitely on the shelf. If Mundt doesn’t look the part, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah can explore a free agent like Jared Cook, Eric Ebron, or Jimmy Graham.

Otherwise, for now, the Vikings TE depth chart looks like this:

TE1: Johnny Mundt
TE2: Ben Ellefson
TE3: Zach Davidson
TE4: Nick Muse
TE5: Shaun Beyer

Smith turns 24 next week. The Vikings expect him ready for Week 1 versus the Green Bay Packers.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).