MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - For the first time in about a month, Justin Jefferson was back on the practice field with the Minnesota Vikings on Wednesday.
The Vikings opened Jefferson's practice window to return from injured reserve, and he now has 21 days to be activated for game action. Jefferson has not played since injuring his hamstring late in the Vikings' Week 5 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs at U.S. Bank Stadium.
He was put on injured reserve and had to miss at least four games. His designation to return to practice comes as the Vikings host the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.
Justin Jefferson #18 of the Minnesota Vikings catches a pass against Jeremy Chinn #21 of the Carolina Panthers during the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium on October 01, 2023 in Charlotte, North Carolina. ((Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images))
Early reports indicated his injury would keep him out for four to six weeks. The earliest he could return was this week against the Saints, but the Vikings won’t bring him back until he feels 100 percent. Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell said Monday it was possible they could open his practice window this week, but they’ve decided to use caution in bringing him back.
He said Wednesday the team has a pre-set timeline for his return.
"He will be acclimated back in through kind of a pre-set timeline that we’re working through. He’s killed his whole rehab and done great things, everything we’ve asked of him. Now we can kind of systematically get him back to a place where we can have him back there with us," O'Connell said.
Jefferson was on the practice field Wednesday as the Vikings held a light walkthrough at TCO Performance Center. He was throwing and catching passes, and had his usual positive demeanor. O'Connell says they have a timeline for Jefferson's return, but didn't offer many details.
"We kind of have a rough timetable in our minds of what that looks like. I think we’re just going to take it a day at a time. What this does is allows him to take part in a little individual here and there, a little bit of team here and there and just getting back acclimated back to being in the huddle," O'Connell said. "I do think Justin is on a good timeline considering the outlook on this thing when we first had this happen."
So could he play Sunday against the Saints? Not so fast, O'Connell said.
"I think that would probably be a little aggressive. I think he feels really good, I know we all feel good about where he’s at, but we’re going to take it a day at a time and ultimately do what’s best for Justin and his long-term future here with us in Minnesota," O'Connell said. "He wants to get back and have an impact on this team, he’s been all-in right there on the sidelines with his teammates every single week."
The Vikings have managed to go 4-0 without Jefferson on the field. In five games, Jefferson has 36 catches for 571 yards and three touchdowns. He was a First-Team All-Pro selection last year after leading the NFL in catches and receiving yards.
The Vikings have won four straight and five of their last six to improve to 5-4 after an 0-3 start.
The Vikings held a walkthrough on Wednesday, so their injury report was an estimation. Jefferson (hamstring) was listed as limited. Jaren Hall (concussion), K.J. Osborn (concussion) and Dean Lowry (groin) did not participate. Brian Asamoah (ankle), Christian Darrisaw (groin), T.J. Hockenson (ribs) and Johnny Mundt (knee) were also limited. Jalen Nailor (hamstring) nada Chris Reed (foot) were full participants.