T.J. Hockenson’s Injury Just Hits Different

a New Wrinkle
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

When the final seconds ticked off the clock for the Minnesota Vikings against the Detroit Lions last weekend, there was more than just a feeling of defeat. It was as though Kevin O’Connell’s team had stacked up the spaces in an infirmary, and reports of T.J. Hockenson’s injury hurt the worst.

T.J. Hockenson’s Injury Just Hits Different

Certainly, the Vikings have been dealt more than their fair share of maladies this season. Both Kirk Cousins and Cam Akers tearing their Achilles were unfortunate, and then you have significant blows to players like Jordan Hicks, Justin Jefferson, and D.J. Wonnum. Some of those guys have made it back, and others, like Marcus Davenport, haven’t tried to do so. Hockenson has been walking wounded for weeks, though, and despite being a warrior and fighting through, he now faces a decision made for him.

Injury Just Hits
Tight end T.J. Hockenson, left, and the Minnesota Vikings prepare to take the field prior to a game vs. the Cincinnati Bengals, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023, at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati. © Kareem Elgazzar / USA TODAY NETWORK. – Credit: Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

It has been apparent for multiple games this season that Hockenson was dealing with significant pain. He had been battered and bruised all over his ribs at points throughout the year, and he continued to show up with big numbers. The tight end Minnesota grabbed from Detroit and then paid handsomely had turned a slow start into a massively impressive campaign. With an opportunity to set new career highs against his former organization, he ultimately suffered what will be a career low.

Reports have suggested that Hockenson suffered a torn ACL, which has a lengthy time frame in and of itself, but the combined concern for his PCL makes matters worse. Rather than being a consideration at the beginning of the 2024 season, it would seem to be a longshot that Week 1 remains a possibility. Hockenson has emerged as among the best tight ends across the league, and losing that sort of playmaker in a new year with quarterback uncertainty would be unfortunate.

Hockenson Chatter
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

This season, Hockenson threatened to post his first 1,000-yard season, finishing just 40 shy of that mark. He found the end zone five times and recorded 95 receptions. With Jefferson missing significant time, and quarterbacks rotating through a turnstile, he was one of the most trusted and consistent options. To see his year come to an end like this is not at all the stamp anyone would have hoped for.

Minnesota will look to get their star tight end on the rehab path sooner rather than later, and hopefully, things aren’t as serious when he ultimately goes under the knife. Maybe the healing process takes a speedy turn on its own, given that Hockenson has youth on his side, but this appears to be something he is in for the long haul.

Hockenson Has Proven
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

Turning the page to next year is something the Vikings can begrudgingly begin to do, but plenty of talent is on the roster to make this season an outlier in O’Connell’s career. Figuring out stability at a few key positions is a must, but having such dynamic playmaking pass-catchers is exciting for anyone under center with Minnesota. Hockenson is a chief reason for that definition, and joining him back up with teammates Jefferson and Jordan Addison early in 2024 would be nice.

Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.