T.J. Hockenson day-to-day with lower-back stiffness

T.J. Hockenson day-to-day with lower-back stiffness

Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson had been out with an ear infection that was affecting his equilibrium.

But now that Hockenson has recovered from that, a new issue is keeping him sidelined.

Minnesota head coach Kevin O'Connell told reporters on Wednesday that Hockenson is dealing with lower-back stiffness and didn't practice in the day's joint session with the Vikings.

"[W]e just want to be smart with guys we know we're going to be relying on and make sure that their preparation for [the regular season] is what we want," O'Connell said, via Kevin Seifert of ESPN.

Hockenson is entering the last year of his rookie contract, but said earlier this week that he's not focused on trying to get a new deal and that's not why he's been missing practice.

O'Connell echoed that same point on Wednesday.

"My dialogue with T.J. in regards to his training camp, or whatever that's looked like, has really been about the ear infection first," O'Connell said, "and working through that, and some of his [rehab] work kind of popped up to maybe cause some lower back stiffness... He has not indicated to me one time that it is about that [contract status]. And look, we would love to have him in every drill. ... But we've got to have a process where we get these guys healthy, feeling really good to go compete as we head toward the season.

"But I'll say this: T.J. has been phenomenal in the meeting room, really leading that tight end room, and the side work he's done. The individual work, the work staying in shape, his lifts and conditioning. I don't have any reservations about him being ready to roll for [the regular season]."

The Vikings acquired Hockenson from the Lions midway through the 2022 season. In 10 games with the team, Hockenson caught 60 passes for 519 yards with three touchdowns. He also had 10 receptions for 129 yards in the Vikings’ playoff loss to the Giants.