The Worst Confirmed for T.J. Hockenson

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Per football operations, the Grinch himself could not have scripted a worse Christmas for the Minnesota Vikings.

The team’s playoff hopes hit life support after losing to the Detroit Lions on Christmas Eve, but somehow, that wasn’t even the bad news.

The Worst Confirmed for T.J. Hockenson

Tight end T.J. Hockenson was drilled in the knee after a momentous completion Sunday afternoon, and in the immediate aftermath, Vikings fans feared the worst. Well, the nefarious news was confirmed on Tuesday as Hockenson will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL and MCL.

The Worst Confirmed
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The Vikings main social media account tweeted, “Head Coach Kevin O’Connell announced that T.J. Hockenson suffered a season-ending ACL and MCL injury.” With Hockenson’s 2023 season formally kaput, the 26-year-old will now hope to return in time for the start of 2024, a situation that will be monitored to the utmost by the team’s faithful for the next nine months.

Minnesota front office, coaching staff, and trainers tend to play it ultra-cautious with player injuries, meaning it won’t be a no-brainer that Hockenson is ready for Week 1 of 2024. Stay tuned.

Justin Jefferson Weighs in
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Hockenson was on the cusp of becoming the Vikings’ first 1,000+ yard tight end in 32 years before the knee injury. Joe Senser achieved the mark in 1981, and Hockenson will fall 40 yards short. When wide receiver Justin Jefferson was injured for seven games in October and November, Hockenson was often the sealant that held the offense together.

With the two-time Pro Bowler on the shelf, Minnesota will turn to TE2 Josh Oliver, who grabbed a noteworthy free-agent contract during free agency nine months ago.

Head coach Kevin O’Connell said about his tight end on Tuesday, “Knowing T.J., the type of player he is, I’m absolutely looking forward to when we can get him back rolling and ready to have a great 2024 season.”

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Here’s the gruesome hit that ended Hockenson’s campaign:

The Vikings also suffered injuries to Jordan Addison (WR), Mekhi Blackmon (CB), and D.J. Wonnum (OLB) versus Detroit. Addison and Blackmon are day-to-day, while Wonnum is also out for 2023’s remainder, tearing his quad.

Minnesota received Hockenson, a 2023 fourth-round pick (Jay Ward), and a 2024 fourth-round pick in a trade with the Lions last season while giving up a 2023 second-round pick and a 2024 third-rounder. Ironically, Hockenson’s old team knocked him down for the count.

The Vikings 2022 Offense by the Numbers: After Week 11
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Hockenson signed a four-year, $66 million extension in August, nominating the Iowa alumnus as the highest-paid TE in NFL history. That deal could be topped this offseason, but for now, Hockenson is the richest of them all at his position.

Meanwhile, Minnesota has lost several other players for the season in 2023, including Kirk Cousins (QB), Cam Akers (RB), Dean Lowry (DT), Oli Udoh (OT), James Lynch (DL), and the aforementioned Wonnum. Outside linebacker Marcus Davenport’s injury status is also up in the air as of December 26th.

The Vikings have a 27% chance of reaching the postseason after losing to the Lions, must win its next two games, and hope the Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks lose a single game — just one — between them.

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 Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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