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The Minnesota Vikings will be without a key offensive starter for potentially the entire 2021 NFL season.
Tight end Irv Smith Jr. will be out for four to five months following surgery Wednesday to repair his meniscus, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported. The timeline would likely rule him out for the regular season.
"We don't know yet," Zimmer said Wednesday when asked whether he was holding out hope that Smith could return this season. "He had this surgery this morning. It'll be a while, though."
Smith, 23, was set to take over as the Vikings' primary option at tight end – as well as the No. 3 target for Kirk Cousins behind standout wide receivers Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen – after the team released Kyle Rudolph in March. The third-year veteran recorded 30 catches for 365 yards and five touchdowns in 2020.
Smith seemed to sustain the injury at some point during Friday's preseason loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, though the exact timing was unclear.
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On Tuesday, as the Vikings acquired tight end Chris Herndon from the New York Jets in a trade ahead of the roster cutdown deadline. The 2018 fourth-round pick struggled to latch on with the Jets' offense in the last two years, missing all but one game in 2019 due to suspension and injury.
Prior to the trade, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer had said the team's depth at the position was "not good," as Tyler Conklin has also been sidelined by a hamstring injury. Minnesota has relied heavily on its two-tight-end sets, but Zimmer indicated change could be ahead.
"We may end up being a little bit more 'three wides,'" Zimmer said Monday. "With some of the guys that we have there. All this will shake out after the cuts. We can't jump ahead of anything right now."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Irv Smith Jr. injury: Minnesota Vikings TE expected to miss season