MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - The Minnesota Vikings are making it sound more and more like star receiver Justin Jefferson may not return to the field until after their bye week.
The Vikings host the Chicago Bears for Monday Night Football on Nov. 27 at U.S. Bank Stadium, and coach Kevin O’Connell said Monday they’ll consider him questionable for the game. Jefferson was a limited participant in practice all last week. He has not played since injuring his hamstring Week 5 against the Kansas City Chiefs, and they opened his 21-day practice window from IR two weeks ago.
The Vikings have to activate Jefferson from IR by Nov. 29, or he’ll stay there and miss the rest of the season.
"Just with his impact for our team, there’s been some real urgency throughout this whole process. But also with a mindset on being smart, making sure that he feels as good as possible, as good as we can to him feeling 100% when he comes back," O’Connell said. "I know he had a really good week last week, we’ll have an extra day this week and we’ll continue to push him more. As of right now, I look at him more as questionable for the football game Monday night."
The Vikings have the luxury of a bye week after hosting the Bears, so Jefferson can get extra rest if they feel he needs it before returning. It’s essentially a "free week."
"I think that will definitely go into the decision-making process. When that time comes, we’ll feel comfortable with Justin being out there. It’s one of those things that knowing you have the bye, and knowing you have five critical opportunities to come after that bye, we do have to be smart," O’Connell said. "This is a player that means a ton to our organization both for this home stretch, but Justin means a lot more than these five or six games, as critical as they are. His long-term career here is the priority."
Jefferson led the NFL in catches and receiving yards last season, on the way to earning First-Team All-Pro honors. He’s a three-time Pro Bowl pick and had 36 catches for 571 yards and three touchdowns before getting injured. The Vikings are 6-5 and had a five-game win streak come to an end in Sunday night’s loss at Denver.
If they wait until after the bye week, his return would come Dec. 10 at the Las Vegas Raiders. The Vikings also have two games remaining against the Detroit Lions, current leaders of the NFC North Division at 8-2.
COSTLY MISCUE FOR MEKHI BLACKMON
Mekhi Blackmon has had splashes in his rookie season and made a season-high seven tackles Sunday night. But there’s one play he probably wants back. Russell Wilson led the Broncos down the field and hit Courtland Sutton for a 15-yard touchdown over Blackmon. It was the game-winner with 1:03 to play.
Blackmon was in a spot to make a play, but Sutton got him.
"Sometimes in this game, it ends up being a size and the location of the football thrown by Russell where Courtland went up and got it and he made a play. Russell made a big-time play like he’s done a ton in his career," O’Connell said. "I thought Mekhi competed. We’re going to look back on that play in the end, they made that play and it’ll be a good learning experience for Mekhi."