Vikings Make Final Decision on Justin Jefferson’s Availability

justin jefferson
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings surprisingly won four straight games without their superstar wideout Justin Jefferson. Things look much better in Minnesota than they did a month ago when the team had a disastrous 1-4 record and lost JJ to a hamstring injury for at least four games. Now at 5-4, the team is competing for a playoff spot, but getting Jefferson back would be a considerable boost.

Vikings Make Final Decision on Justin Jefferson’s Availability

Vikings Make Final Decision on Justin Jefferson's Availability
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

All week, the Vikes and their top player emphasized that they want to be cautious. Kevin O’Connell mentioned on Monday that Jefferson playing on Sunday would be aggressive. However, he has been eligible to return after missing his fourth contest on IR and actually returned to practice. His 21-day practice window was opened on Wednesday.

Teams then have those 21 days to activate the player to the active roster. Minnesota opted to keep him out of Sunday’s matchup with the New Orleans Saints despite surprisingly listing him as questionable on Friday. He was downgraded to out on Friday, the team announced.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported on X: “The Vikings won’t activate WR Justin Jefferson from injured reserve for Sunday’s game vs. the Saints. Jefferson (hamstring) returned to practice this week and was listed as questionable. But the plan was always to ramp him up gradually, and that will continue.”

The wideout practiced three times on a limited basis, but the way everyone involved spoke about his potential return made it unlikely for him to suit up in Week 10.

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Head coach Kevin O’Connell spoke about his top target on Wednesday: “I think that would probably be a little too aggressive (Jefferson playing this week). I think he feels really good and I know we all feel good about where he’s at but we’re gonna take it a day at a time and ultimately do what’s best for Justin and his long-term future here with us in Minnesota and then clearly he wants to get back and have an impact on this team. You guys have seen him, he has been all-in right there on the sidelines with his teammates fighting it out every single week through this whole stretch and he can’t wait to get back out there.”

The receiver group could be badly depleted against the Saints. Tight end T.J. Hockenson (ribs) and receiver K.J. Osborn (concussion) are both questionable. Sophomore Jalen Nailor hasn’t played since Week 2, and he wasn’t a factor on offense in the season’s first two games. Of course, running back Cam Akers is out for the season with a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Sep 14, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jalen Nailor (83) against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports.

Remaining receivers include rookie sensation Jordan Addison, who has taken over the WR1 role during Jefferson’s absence, punt returner Brandon Powell, who caught the game-winner in Atlanta, Trishton Jackson, who was signed to the active roster after spending a couple of seasons on the practice squad, and veteran N’Keal Harry.

But there is some good injury news, as left tackle Christian Darrisaw is expected to return. The offensive line has been a bright spot on Minnesota’s offense all year for the first time in years.

Jefferson is eligible to return, and his comeback next week in Denver is certainly possible.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt