NOVEMBER 11: As expected, Jefferson will indeed be out for Week 10, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero tweets. While his ramp-up period continues, the Vikings remain hopeful Jefferson will be able to suit up before their Week 13 bye, Dianna Russini of The Athletic reports. That comes as little surprise given the timing of their decision to open his practice window, but a relatively quick return would of course be a welcomed development for a shorthanded Minnesota offense.
NOVEMBER 9: When speaking publicly for the first time since returning to practice, Jefferson confirmed he gave no serious consideration to sitting out the remainder of the season (h/t ESPN’s Kevin Seifert). He added, to no surprise, that he will not suit up at less than 100%, pointing further to a Week 10 absence being likely.
NOVEMBER 8, 2:19pm: Kevin O’Connell confirmed the Vikings have a timeline planned for Jefferson’s return, and the second-year Vikings HC admitted (via the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Ben Goessling) a return this week would be on the aggressive side. As it stands, the Vikes’ Week 11 tilt in Denver stands to be Jefferson’s earliest return window.
12:25pm: Some murky updates have come since Justin Jefferson landed on IR with a hamstring injury. While the All-Pro wide receiver is no lock to be ready by Sunday, the Vikings will see him back at practice.
Minnesota opened Jefferson’s practice window Wednesday, per NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, starting his activation clock. The Vikings will have until Nov. 29 to activate Jefferson or see him revert to season-ending IR. With the team still in contention for a playoff spot, Jefferson has a reason to return. Of course, the superstar receiver’s contract stands to affect his timetable.
The Vikings and Jefferson negotiated this summer, talking right up until Week 1. But the sides could not agree to terms, pushing talks to 2024. In the fifth-year option era, no team has extended a wide receiver with two seasons of rookie-contract control previously, and while the Vikings aimed to be the first, they still have another offseason to do so before the franchise tag comes into play. But the failed talks will point to Jefferson waiting until he is 100% recovered from the injury he sustained in Week 5.
As such, Jefferson is not expected to play this week. This timetable would make Week 11 — against the Broncos — the fourth-year playmaker’s first opportunity to come back. But Wednesday sets a clear timeline for Jefferson’s activation. The parties could also opt for a long runway here. Minnesota’s bye arrives in Week 13, which opens the door for a possible extended buildup in which Jefferson spends the full three weeks on IR and receives an extra week of recovery time before a Week 14 return. While that might be overkill, it is important to note some recent hamstring setbacks that have affected other standout pass catchers.
Both Keenan Allen and Darren Waller sustained setbacks during their recoveries, leading to extended hiatuses. Allen ended up missing seven games with his hamstring malady, while Waller missed eight. The latter, who had already signed his Raiders extension when he attempted to return too soon last season, is on IR with another hamstring malady as a Giant. New York also saw left tackle Andrew Thomas aggravate his hamstring injury during recovery this season, and while Thomas is not a skill-position player, the All-Pro lineman needed another month before returning thanks to the aggravation.
The Vikings have won each of their games without Jefferson, and the team’s contender status loomed as a factor in the wideout’s comeback. The Vikes are aiming to become only the second team this century (after the 2018 Texans) to rally from 0-3 to the playoffs. Although, three of the Jefferson-less victories came with Kirk Cousins at the controls. The longtime Minnesota quarterback is out for the season with a torn Achilles. The team received a boost from trade pickup Josh Dobbs last week, and while the eight-game Cardinals starter will start for the Vikes in Week 10 against the Saints, the team’s offense will lack the capabilities it had with Cousins.
Minnesota’s QB setup may also affect Jefferson’s timetable, but in the grand scheme, his price tag is unlikely to drop if a hamstring aggravation occurs. Though, the Vikings would risk losing Jefferson for the season if that transpires. The 2020 first-rounder, who shattered the NFL record for receiving yards through three seasons, still leads the Vikings with 571 receiving yards. Jordan Addison has shown growth during Jefferson’s absence, creating an enticing setup for the resurgent team should it activate its aerial ace this month.