There’s a New Wrinkle to T.J. Hockenson’s Situation

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson tore his ACL in December against the Detroit Lions, ending his otherwise remarkable second act in purple.

There’s a New Wrinkle to T.J. Hockenson’s Situation

Notorious Lions safety Kerby Joseph hit Hockenson low, finishing his 2023 campaign and probably jeopardizing the beginning of the 2024 regular season. The same Lions defender ended Los Angeles Rams tight end Tyler Higbee’s season two weeks later with a similar hit. Higbee is in the same recovery boat as Hockenson.

a New Wrinkle to
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Thereafter, all things Hockenson turned to a recovery timeline, and the 26-year-old had knee surgery about two weeks ago. But now the question about his return is more nuanced. Not only are Vikings fans wondering about his back-on-the-field date — it’s a matter of whether Hockenson hits the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list to start the season.

ESPN’s Kevin Seifert wrote on February 8th, “Hockenson, a fixture at one of the most important positions in the Vikings’ offensive scheme, tore the ACL and MCL in his right knee Dec. 24. In conjunction with the team’s medical staff, he delayed surgery for 36 days while the MCL healed. Dr. Neal ElAttrache repaired his ACL on Jan. 29. Multiple sources told ESPN there have been no complications from the surgery, but emphasized the typical recovery from the type of injury he suffered is nine months.”

Justin Jefferson Weighs in
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Hockenson was on the brink of becoming the Vikings’ first 1,000+ yard tight end in 42 years before the knee injury. Joe Senser achieved the mark in 1981, and Hockenson fell 40 yards short. When wide receiver Justin Jefferson was injured for seven games in October and November, Hockenson was often the adhesive that kept the offense together.

Seifert also noted on the PUP possibility, “It’s early in the process, and Hockenson’s schedule could either be accelerated or slowed based on the timing of various milestones. But the most relevant question is not whether he will be ready for Week 1, but instead, whether he will be placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list — making him ineligible to play until Week 5 at the earliest. The possibility Hockenson could miss a chunk of the 2024 regular season, rather than be limited in the early going, raises the stakes of the Vikings’ offseason plan for the depth behind him.”

for 2 Injured
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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.

So, as the offseason progresses, it’s likely automatic that Hockenson won’t be totally ready for Week 1. The new wait-and-see item should be if Hockenson is formally ruled out of the team’s first four games with a PUP designation, a decision to be made in late August or early September.

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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