In a strange turn of events, Justin Jefferson’s absence has coincided with the Minnesota Vikings’ best run of the 2023 NFL season. The Vikings started 0-3 and were 1-4 when Jefferson went on injured reserve with a hamstring injury, but Minnesota has since reeled off four consecutive wins as it fights to return to the playoffs.
When Jefferson returns, it won’t be Kirk Cousins throwing him the ball — the veteran quarterback is done for the season with an Achilles tendon rupture. But Jefferson is on his way back, as the receiver himself confirmed on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters, Jefferson– the NFL’s reigning Offensive Player of the Year– said he couldn’t “put a date” on his return to the field. Hamstring injuries are notoriously tricky to overcome, and Jefferson doesn’t want to be on the field at “80 or 90 percent.”
“They (the Vikings) want me 100 percent, as I do as well,” Jefferson said.
On Wednesday, head coach Kevin O’Connell said it would be “a little aggressive” to push Jefferson into action against the New Orleans Saints this weekend, an opportunity for the Vikings to get a little closer to the Detroit Lions in the NFC North.
But Jefferson — who said he is feeling “better and better” with each passing day — could easily make his return when Minnesota visits Denver to take on the Broncos in Week 11. The wait is almost over.
As improbable as Minnesota’s 1-4 start was, the Vikings’ subsequent winning streak has perhaps been even less likely, given the injuries the team has suffered.
Minnesota dominated defensively in wins over divisional foes Chicago and Green Bay, and they put up 452 yards of offense in a win over NFC powerhouse San Francisco.
With newly-acquired quarterback Joshua Dobbs under center last Sunday, the Vikings went on the road and shocked the Atlanta Falcons with a fourth-quarter rally — now, they are firmly back in the playoff picture.
The Saints are slim 2.5-point favorites at U.S. Bank Stadium this weekend, and the Vikings will have every chance of recording another victory while getting Jefferson back for the final seven games of the regular season.