Home Sports Source: Jefferson to IR, out at least 4 games

Source: Jefferson to IR, out at least 4 games

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Source: Jefferson to IR, out at least 4 games

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Minnesota Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson will miss at least the next four games because of a strained right hamstring he suffered Sunday in the team’s 27-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, the biggest blow in what has been a catastrophic start to the team’s season.

The Vikings plan to place Jefferson on injured reserve Tuesday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter confirmed, to ensure that he does not return to the field too early and suffer a setback. The earliest he could be activated is for a Week 10 game against the New Orleans Saints, but the Vikings will determine at that point whether he’s ready to resume playing or if he needs more time.

The decision tracks with what coach Kevin O’Connell said Monday during a news conference with reporters.

“We’re going to have to medically make a good decision and help almost protect him from himself a little bit in a way where we’ve got to take care of him and get him back to 100 percent,” O’Connell said.

Losing Jefferson, the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year in 2022, will further impair a Vikings team that has started the season 1-4 and has three of its next four games on the road. Their only home game in that stretch is against the undefeated San Francisco 49ers.

The team runs its entire offense through Jefferson, O’Connell acknowledged Monday, and might need to reinvent its schemes to move forward. Entering Week 5, Jefferson ranked first in the NFL in receiving yards (543), was tied for second in catches (33) and third in targets (47).

Rookie Jordan Addison figures to see more targets, along with veterans K.J. Osborn and Brandon Powell, but the Vikings will also have to adjust to defenses that likely won’t feel compelled to use the double-teams and other exotic coverages that Jefferson routinely sees.

Speaking Monday, O’Connell said that if Jefferson missed any time, the Vikings would find out “whether people decide to play us a little more straight up or true, how we run it maybe against some looks that, quite frankly, we don’t get a whole lot.”

Jefferson has never missed an NFL game and had started 53 consecutive games since Week 3 of his rookie season in 2020. He rarely has come off the field, having played 92% of the team’s offensive snaps over that period.

“Justin has done a phenomenal job for the last 3½ years of staying healthy and being healthy every week, which is hard to do,” quarterback Kirk Cousins said Sunday. “Even with this injury, it makes you pause and be grateful for how healthy he has been.”

The Vikings negotiated for months during the offseason to sign Jefferson to a contract extension, but the sides were unable to find common ground and broke off negotiations last month. Jefferson will receive a $2.4 million base salary this season and would earn $19.7 million in 2024 under the terms of his fifth-year option if there is no extension at this point.

But Jefferson’s injury could have an impact on the team’s decision-making for the rest of the season. Three prominent veterans — Cousins, Osborn and linebacker Danielle Hunter — are all playing with contracts that will expire after the season. The NFL trade deadline is Oct. 31. Cousins has a full no-trade clause that he would have to waive if the Vikings wanted to move him.

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