One of the elite players in the NFL, Justin Jefferson, has been activated from injured reserve, paving the way for the All-Pro wide receiver̵7;s return to action following an extended layoff due to a hamstring injury.
Jefferson has missed the last seven Minnesota Vikings games, and on Monday he watched his team suffer a two-point loss to their division rival Chicago Bears. The Vikings will enjoy a bye this week, giving Jefferson additional time to work his way back into the starting lineup.
After the off week, the Vikings will travel to Las Vegas for a Dec. 10 matchup with the Raiders. Jefferson was named the AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year in 2022 after he racked up more than 1,800 receiving yards. He also received First-team All-Pro honors.
Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell said Jefferson was close to suiting up for Monday’s night game against the Bears, but the team ultimately decided to target Week 14 for his return.
“Justin was close to having a chance of going last night, but the best thing for him and for our team moving forward was to get through the bye and ultimately have him at 100% coming out of the bye as we take on the Raiders on the road,” O’Connell said.
Jefferson returned to practice on Nov. 8 and said last week he was reaching “top speeds.” If Jefferson weren’t activated this week for some reason, he would have been ineligible to return this season.
Following a 2-4 start, veteran quarterback Kirk Cousins led Minnesota to three consecutive wins before he went down with a season-ending Achilles injury.
Rookie quarterback Jaren Hall was named the starter for the team’s Week 9 game vs. the Falcons, but he suffered an injury during the game. Journeyman Josh Dobbs, who was traded to the Vikings just days before the game in Atlanta, was then forced into action. Despite having virtually no time to learn the playbook or all of his teammates names, Dobbs led Minnesota to an impressive comeback to keep the winning streak alive.
Dobbs had another strong performance in Week 10 in a win over the New Orleans Saints. But, the honeymoon phase with Dobbs has cooled over the past couple of weeks as the team has dropped the last two games.
Dobbs threw a career-high four interceptions during Monday night’s loss.
It is now unclear who will throw Jefferson passes when he steps back on the football field for a game. On Monday, O’Connell was non-committal on whether Dobbs would remain the team’s starter going forward.
“We’re going to take a look, you know really evaluate the inventory of plays now we have of Josh,” O’Connell said when asked if he would consider a quarterback change.”
Jefferson caught 39 passes for 571 yards and three touchdowns over five games so far this season.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.