Vikings WR Justin Jefferson: 'It felt amazing' to be back at practice

Justin Jefferson #18 of the Minnesota Vikings catches the ball in the first quarter against the Tennessee Titans at U.S. Bank Stadium on September 27, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  ((Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images))

Justin Jefferson doesn’t yet know if he’ll even take a preseason snap with the Minnesota Vikings, but he’s relieved that the shoulder injury he suffered in practice during training camp isn’t more serious.

Jefferson went down on Aug. 6, hurting his left shoulder after diving to make a catch. He left that practice with trainers and didn’t return. The star receiver, entering his second season with the Vikings, returned to practice in a limited capacity for the first time in 10 days on Monday at TCO Performance Center after not playing in the first preseason game last Saturday.

"It felt amazing, I don’t really miss practice too often, so to be on the side and watching my teammates practice, just going through their daily routine is hard to watch. It was good to be back and to get back in the swing of things," Jefferson said before Tuesday’s practice.

Jefferson said he wasn’t sure what to think immediately after getting hurt in practice.

"At first I was a little worried just because I didn’t know the status of the injury. Once we looked at the X-rays and did every test, they said it wasn’t that bad so after that, I was good," Jefferson said.

We know the numbers by now. Jefferson finished a rookie year without the benefit of an offseason or preseason with 88 catches for 1,400 yards, both franchise records for a rookie, and seven touchdowns.

Jefferson was limited again in Tuesday’s practice, and his status for Saturday’s preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts is still up in the air.

"I don’t think he’ll play in the game this week, but we’ll see as it goes. Don’t hold me to it," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said.

Jefferson learned that the sprained AC joint in his left shoulder is a common injury in football. He said almost all of his teammates have had it, and he’s heard plenty of stories in the locker room.

"Like 90 percent of the guys in the locker room have had ACs before, so they telling me different stories and stuff. They’re telling me it’s going to linger, but I mean just pull through it," Jefferson said.


Anthony Barr was not on the practice field Tuesday for the Vikings, and hasn't been a full participant in practice since Aug. 5. Zimmer said after he missed multiple days last week he was "just taking care of him," but said Tuesday, "he’s got something that he’s dealing with."

We don’t know what that something is. Barr missed most of last season after suffering a torn pectoral muscle in Week 2 at Indianapolis. He’s the signal-caller for the defense, and they’ll need him healthy for 17 regular season games.

Barr was one of several to miss practice Tuesday. It’s a list that includes Kene Nwangwu, Patrick Jones II, Cam Smith, and James Lynch. Christian Darrisaw, Tyler Conklin and Nate Stanley watched practice without pads. Nwangwu hurt his knee in Saturday’s preseason game, and Smith suffered a concussion.


Defensive tackle Michael Pierce left no doubt to his status for Saturday’s game against the Colts.

"Super excited, man. It’s not potentially, I’m playing in this game," he said Tuesday.

Pierce was one of 30 veterans and nearly all starters who watched last Saturday’s 33-6 preseason loss from the sidelines. After dealing with a calf injury early in training camp, Pierce has been playing with the first-team defense for several days. He expects to be a little nervous and "amped up," even though it’s a preseason game.

It’ll be his first game of any kind since the end of the 2019 season. He opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns. Pierce came to the Vikings on a three-year, $27 million deal to be a run stuffer, and put pressure on the quarterback. He’s one of several veterans who have already been told by coaches they’re playing.

"We’ll give it a go on Saturday and hope for the best. It’s time to show what I’ve been working on throughout my career," Pierce said.

The last time Pierce played a game at U.S. Bank Stadium was during the 2017 season with the Baltimore Ravens.

"I remember we lost, that’s the most important thing. It’s a very loud, energetic place. I relate it to Seattle, who gets a lot of love for the 12th man. I think it’s louder than that because it’s closed in," Pierce said. "It’s a home field advantage, for sure."


The Vikings hosted the Denver Broncos for joint practices last week, capped by Saturday’s preseason game. Denver star linebacker Von Miller had high praise for Brian O’Neill, calling him one of the best offensive tackles in the NFL.

O’Neill spent the better part of two days of practice trying to keep him away from Kirk Cousins. O’Neill said he considers Miller a future hall-of-famer.

"That’s a Super Bowl MVP. He’s probably going to be wearing a gold jacket, so it was pretty cool to get two days of work against him in that environment," O’Neill said. "Being able to get that many reps in that many different situations, it was just good work."

The Vikings practice Thursday at TCO Performance Center, then get Friday off before Saturday’s preseason game, in which at least some starters will play.