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Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson calls for change after low hit that took him out

Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson has thought about the particular play probably more times than he can count.

He remembers flying head over heels after Detroit Lions safety Kerby Joseph launched into his right knee during a game on Christmas Eve. He remembers feeling dejected after learning he had suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament as well as a torn medial collateral ligament. He remembers being disgusted after seeing the same exact thing happen to Los Angeles Rams tight end Tyler Higbee a couple of weeks later.

Now, as he works his way through the recovery process, Hockenson is asking the league to do something about it.

“Obviously I wasn’t too happy about it,” he said. “That’s not a fun one to take.”

The particular play in question occurred when Hockenson hauled in a reception over the middle of the field, then instantaneously absorbed a low hit from Joseph, who led with the crown of his helmet. Talking to reporters for the first time since it happened, Hockenson went as far as saying he would have rather suffered a head injury from a high hit than a knee injury from a low hit.

“I would have had a normal offseason getting ready,” he said. “I’ve had a concussion. It took me a week. I’m just looking at it from that pure timetable.”

Though he said he doesn’t think Joseph was intentionally trying to hurt him on that play, Hockenson made it clear that he thinks the league should take a look at what exactly is permissible at the point of attack. He noted offensive players aren’t allowed to cut block outside of the tackle box. He doesn’t understand why defensive players are allowed to do something similar in open space.

“It’s tough,” Hockenson said. “It really is.”

What does he think a good solution would be?

“That’s not my job to necessarily look into that,” Hockenson said. “I’ll leave that to the league.”

Asked if there was a world in which he would be ready to play in 2024 by Week 1, Hockenson stopped short of making any guarantees related to the recovery process. He finished last season with 95 catches for 960 yards before being taken out on Christmas Eve.

“I think anything is possible,” he said. “I’m definitely not going to put a timeline on it.”

He had successful surgery to repair the anterior cruciate ligament a few months ago after waiting for the medial collateral ligament to heal on its own. He since has been able to get back into the weight room and is waiting for clearance to start running again.

“That’s coming,” Hockenson said. “To be able to integrate myself onto the field is going to be huge.”

As he reflected on his recovery process so far, Hockenson spoke very highly of Tyler Williams, who serves as the vice president of player health and performance, and Matt Duhamel, who serves as the director of rehabilitation.

“They really do care,” Hockenson said. “I was doing a lot of rehab down in Nashville, and those guys came down and sat around and watched. That’s huge. That doesn’t happen everywhere.”

There’s still a long road ahead of Hockenson as he works his way back to 100 percent. In the meantime, as much as he’s hoping the NFL takes a look at the particular play that put him in this position, he’s proud of the way he has handled the situation so far.

“I’ve learned a lot about myself,” Hockenson said. “The dark times make the bright times better.”

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