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The Minnesota Vikings opened superstar wide receiver Justin Jefferson’s 21-day practice window Wednesday, paving the way for him to return to action sometime in the next few weeks.
Jefferson has missed the Vikings’ past four games since being placed on injured reserve with a hamstring injury, meaning he is now eligible to return at any time.
Jefferson, 24, suffered a hamstring injury in Week 5 that led to a stint on IR, and called into question whether he would return at all this season given the Vikings’ struggles up until that point.
Minnesota was just 1-4 when Jefferson was placed on injured reserve, and given that he and the team had yet to reach a long-term contract extension, there was speculation that the star wideout might simply sit out the rest of a lost season to preserve his health.
The Vikings have surged to four straight wins in his absence, though, making them 5-4 on the season and putting them in the thick of the playoff hunt.
This past week, the Vikes were without quarterback Kirk Cousins due to a season-ending Achilles tear, and rookie quarterback Jaren Hall suffered a concussion during the game, but trade deadline acquisition Josh Dobbs stepped in off the bench on short notice to lead Minnesota to a come-from-behind win over the Atlanta Falcons.
Before Jefferson got injured, the three-time Pro Bowler and 2022 first-team All-Pro selection was putting together another huge season, with 36 catches for 571 yards and three touchdowns.
Coming into 2023, Jefferson had improved his receptions and yardage output in all three of his professional seasons, culminating in his epic 2022 showing (128 catches for 1,809 yards and eight scores).
While Tyreek Hill, Ja’Marr Chase and A.J. Brown might have their own thoughts on the matter, there’s an argument to be made that Jefferson has emerged as the best wideout in football. He’ll surely be paid like it soon enough.
Assuming Jefferson is not activated for Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints, rookie first-round pick Jordan Addison will continue to operate as Minnesota’s No. 1 receiver.
Since the Vikings have a bye following their Week 11 game against the Denver Broncos, it could make sense for Minnesota to activate Jefferson during the bye week and bring him back for Week 13 against the Chicago Bears.