Good News for One of the Vikings’ Star Playmakers

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T.J. Hockenson is one of the Vikings’ foremost players, so hearing the positive report about his injury recovery is excellent news.

Earlier in the day, head coach Kevin O’Connell, right tackle Brian O’Neill, and tight end T.J. Hockenson took some time for the Minnesota media. One of the main ideas to shine through is that the Vikings’ star at TE is making good progress in his recovery from injury.

Good News for T.J. Hockenson, The Vikings’ Star Playmaker at TE

In the Week 16 tilt with the Detroit Lions — Hockenson’s former team — Minnesota’s TE1 tore his ACL after getting hit by Lions safety Kerby Joseph (a lot of the press conference involved Hockenson discussing that hit, but that’s a topic we’ll get to on a different day).

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Since then, Hockenson has been hard at work trying to get back to full health. The surgery went well and so, too, has his recovery been taking positive steps.

O’Connell offered the initial update. The head coach has “been really, really excited” about the “very successful surgery” and the “daily improvement.” O’Connell goes on to explain that “T.J. is going to do everything in his power, in many ways, to get back as fast as possible.”

The idea that shines through is that the head coach has optimism while nevertheless acknowledging that much work lies ahead. “We’re going to be smart about it throughout the process,” O’Connell explains.

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While at the podium, T.J. Hockenson ventured into similar thoughts.

“It’s definitely been a process,” Hockenson said. He offers some positive thoughts, describing how he has an “itch to get back out there” while noting that he’s “attacking it day by day.” A summative thought at the end of the initial answer gives good perspective: “Obviously, the ultimate goal is to get back out on the field and do everything, so just pushing towards that goal.”

The star tight end offered plenty of praise for the support he’s receiving. And while there are discouraging days, Hockenson is taking steps forward. Notably, the pass catcher wouldn’t make any ironclad predictions about being ready for the season’s opening game.

for 2 Injured
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So much of the focus of the offeason has been on the change at quarterback. Kirk Cousins is now a Falcon, so Minnesota is moving ahead with Sam Darnold — a “great guy,” per Hockenson — and potentially a highly-picked passer.

Whoever lines up under center is going to benefit from having T.J. Hockenson on the field. The 26-year-old tight end stands at 6’5″ and weighs 248 pounds, so he’s a large target. Before going down with an injury, Hockenson was up to 95 catches, 960 yards, and 5 touchdowns. Almost certainly, he would have cleared 100 catches and 1,000 yards if he had stayed healthy.

One wonders if hitting those statistical benchmarks would have been enough for Hockenson to be named as a second-team All Pro.

Without Hockenson, Josh Oliver, Johnny Mundt, and Nick Muse will be the options at tight end. The message from today’s press conference, though, is a positive one. Maybe the tight end group can be lifted from a trio to a quartet before too long.

The Vikings’ tight end agreed to a 4-year, $66 million last offseason.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference and Over the Cap helped with this piece.

K. Joudry is the Senior Editor for Vikings Territory and PurplePTSD. He has been covering the Vikings full time since the summer of 2021. He can be found on Twitter and as a co-host for Notes from the North, a humble Vikings podcast.