Justin Jefferson is eligible to return from injured reserve this week, but the Minnesota Vikings wide receiver isn’t ready to push things just yet.
Jefferson, while he thinks he’s close to returning after dealing with a hamstring injury for the past month, won’t play until he’s positive that his hamstring is completely healed. Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell said that it would be “a little aggressive” for Jefferson to return for their game this weekend against the New Orleans Saints. That leaves next week’s game against the Denver Broncos as his likely return point.
"The hamstring is a difficult injury just because it lingers and it comes back from time to time if you don't put the right treatment into it," Jefferson said Thursday, via ESPN.
"The guys and the rest of the coaching staff in this building know my worth on the field and they want me at 100%, as I do as well. I don't want to go out there at 80 or 90% and have the chance of hurting it again. It's just day-to-day, and when that time comes, I'll definitely be ready to step out there."
Jefferson went down with his hamstring injury in the Vikings’ 27-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Oct. 8 after he slipped on the turf at U.S. Bank Stadium while running a route. The Vikings then placed him on injured reserve soon after, which knocked Jefferson out for at least four weeks. The 24-year-old had not missed a game due to injury in his career until this season.
"I don't want to have any doubts on my mind that it's going to come back and continue to linger throughout the season," he said, via ESPN. "I feel like that's kind of the main objective to get to 100%."
Jefferson, who is in his fourth season in the league, had 571 receiving yards and three touchdowns on 36 catches when he went down. He tied the NFL record for the fastest receiver to 5,000 yards in Week 2 of the season, too. He is in the final year of his initial rookie contract with the Vikings after the two sides failed to reach an extension this past offseason.
Though they’ve won four straight games, the Vikings’ offense looks very different now than it did the last time Jefferson was on the field. The team is on its third different quarterback since then and lost starter Kirk Cousins due to an Achilles injury. Joshua Dobbs — whom the Vikings traded for last week — stepped in for rookie Jaren Hall on Sunday and led them to a late comeback win over the Atlanta Falcons. Dobbs is now the team’s starter moving forward.
The Vikings have to add Jefferson back to their active roster by Dec. 6, which is during their bye week. They will host the Chicago Bears on Nov. 27, which is another chance for Jefferson to return if he’s still not ready to go for next week’s game against the Broncos.