Vikings’ Hockenson plans to play vs. Broncos; Evans ‘not sure’

Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune/Star Tribune/TNS

Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson said Thursday he's on the road to recovery with his injured ribs. He said he plans to play Sunday night in Denver, but he'll continue managing what offensive coordinator Wes Phillips described this week as multiple rib injuries.

"Put it in the back of your head," said Hockenson, who was limited in Thursday's practice. "Obviously, remember that it's still there because you don't want to do anything worse. But just making sure that you turn it off for game day and worry about it later."

Hockenson did not detail the rib injuries, which he suffered in the Nov. 5 win in Atlanta. He was asked whether he's risking further injury by playing. He had 11 catches for a season-high 134 yards and a touchdown while playing through pain last week against the Saints.

"I guess we do everything we can to make it not worse," Hockenson said. "Just going to not feel great. I'm feeling better this week and going to continue that road, hopefully."

Hockenson gauged himself as 80% healthy last week. That was enough to make a difference for a playoff-contending, 6-4 Vikings team that is headed for two likely pivotal meetings — Dec. 24 and Jan. 7 — with his former team, the Detroit Lions (7-2).

"The NFC North is obviously a competitive division," Hockenson said. "Last year, it's not like it was easy to win the division once I got here. That's just going to be the play. Obviously, I have history in Detroit, but I'm here and this is where I want to be. I'm just excited to continue this road, and we'll think about that at the end of this season."

Evans 'not sure' he'll play Sunday

Cornerback Akayleb Evans remained sidelined Thursday because of a calf injury that he said could prevent him from playing Sunday night in Denver. Evans, the starting corner opposite Byron Murphy Jr., underwent an MRI that revealed a strained calf muscle, the severity of which he said could allow him to return after a one-week absence.

"I'm not sure if I'll be able to go [Sunday]," Evans said, "but for sure next week."

Evans smirked when asked about the jarring hit he delivered on Saints receiver Michael Thomas, who dropped a pass on the first snap against the Vikings defense.

"I felt like I was playing good, just playing confident," Evans said. "It's always tough to go out with an injury, but especially when you're playing well."

Running back Alexander Mattison (concussion) returned to practice and was limited. Quarterback Nick Mullens (back) and linebacker Brian Asamoah II (ankle) were also limited. Quarterback Jaren Hall (concussion) progressed to a full participant, and was second in the pecking order during quarterback drills in practice.

Sign up for our Vikings Update newsletterJefferson to return when 'I'm not feeling sore'

Receiver Justin Jefferson said Thursday that his return from his Oct. 8 hamstring strain will be his decision and that he's not playing again until his right leg can endure the 40 routes per game he has averaged this season. Jefferson remained limited in Thursday's practice.

"Making sure after I work out I'm not feeling sore and feeling achy," Jefferson said. "That's kind of what we've been dealing with the past weeks. Just every day trying to attack it more and more.

Jefferson, born in 1999, will have to adjust to the Vikings' new soundtrack featuring the band Creed. Quarterback Kirk Cousins and center Garrett Bradbury have rallied teammates around their chosen pump-up music throughout a five-game winning streak.

"The only 'Creed' I knew was the boxing movie," Jefferson said. "I did not know about no Creed until Kirk Cousins started playing it in the locker room. If it gets the job done, I'm all for it."

How do you get the team's best player on board?

"He'll see the light," Bradbury said. "He's been out a while."


* Next week's Vikings-Bears game will remain on "Monday Night Football"; it wasn't flexed by Wednesday's deadline. On Thursday, the Vikings announced they'll again wear the classic 1960s and 1970s throwback uniforms for the Nov. 27 prime-time game.