NOVEMBER 27: Jefferson will not play tonight, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network tweets. Minnesota will elect to play it safe in this case with the bye week looming after the team’s upcoming contest against the Bears. Pelissero adds that Jefferson is expected to be 100% healthy by the time the Vikings next take the field.
NOVEMBER 25: Jefferson was limited in practice on Saturday, leading to a questionable designation. Head coach Kevin O’Connell confirmed the team will continue to evaluate his status all the way up to their primetime matchup, meaning a firm decision has still not been made (video link). Minnesota has until Monday afternoon to activate Jefferson, otherwise his return will be delayed at least one more game.
NOVEMBER 24: A hamstring injury has forced Justin Jefferson to miss game action for the first time in his career. The Vikings All-Pro continues to make progress in his recovery, however, and he could see the field as early as Week 12.
Jefferson was placed on IR in October to avoid the risk of a rushed return to the lineup. That move guaranteed at least four-week absence, though, and that timeline has since been extended. Despite having his practice window opened more than two weeks ago, the reigning Offensive Player of the Year has not yet been activated, something which needs to take place before Minnesota’s upcoming Monday night game against the Bears for him to be eligible to play.
That move could be coming in the very near future, however. Jefferson noted (via ESPN’s Kevin Seifert) that he has reached full speed during practice, meaning he could be in line to suit up for Week 12. A firm decision has yet to be made on that front, but his return would obviously give the Vikings’ offense a major boost. Minnesota reeled off five straight wins in his absence before losing in Week 11, but Jefferson would give new starting quarterback Josh Dobbs the team’s top pass-catcher as an option offense to help their postseason push.
“I’m not sure,” Jefferson said when producing an update on his current status. “We’ll see. We still have more days to practice and really evaluate everything. We’re going to weigh the options correctly, making sure that I’m feeling well and prepared to play a game, and if I’m feeling good I will play.”
Of course, Jefferson’s contract status as loomed over his recovery period. The 24-year-old – who began his career with the most productive three-year receiving stretch in NFL history – is on the books through 2024, when he will play on his fifth-year option. Talks on what will no doubt be a massive extension took place this summer, but they did not produce an agreement. Negotiations will not resume until the offseason, leading to speculation Jefferson would avoid a return to action without a new contract in hand. He offered a stark rebuttal on that point when asked about it.
“I know my position. I know what I’m doing,” he said (via Seifert). “And I know it’s not for the contract. It’s not for the contract at all.”
In any case, Jefferson’s status will be worth watching closely over the weekend as he continues to work toward a return. Bringing him back into the lineup will use up one of the five IR activations the Vikings still have at this point in the season.