Landing on injured reserve this week effectively takes Justin Jefferson out of play for at least the next four games, but the Minnesota Vikings' star receiver is eyeing a return in 2023 when healthy.
The plan is to re-evaluate Jefferson's hamstring injury after four weeks, but there is optimism that he will be back soon thereafter, NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero reported Sunday.
"Jefferson is motivated," Pelissero said on NFL GameDay Morning. "He wants to be the greatest ever, wants another 1,000-plus-yard receiving season. The belief is he will be back ASAP, regardless of his contract or the team's record."
Ahead of the 2023 season, Jefferson's future in Minnesota was a topic of discussion as the All-Pro wideout sought a long-term deal with the club. As the season began without a new deal, a scenario Jefferson said was "all up to" the organization, the Vikings' 0-3 start prompted whispers of the team possibly trading off assets.
The fourth-year pro refuted any idea of giving up on the season so early.
"I'm tired of people saying that we're looking into next season, or all of the trades and stuff like that," Jefferson said at the time. "We're focused still on this season. We have a lot more games to go and we have a lot more things to accomplish this season. We're still focused in, and we still have the same goal as we had before the season. We just need to fix a few things, and I feel like we'll be back on track."
The Vikings won their next game but weren't able to topple the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs in Week 5. Jefferson's hamstring injury only made matters worse as the Vikings sit at 1-4.
Jefferson, who's rookie contract expires after the 2024 season, has gotten off to one of the greatest starts to a career by a wideout, averaging 96.5 receiving yards over his first 50 career games. His 4,825 receiving yards (28 touchdowns) are more than any player has totaled through their first three seasons in NFL history. Jefferson also has more than double the receiving yards of any Vikings pass catcher through five games this season.
Adjusting to life without Jefferson won't come easy for Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell, who said this week the team has "plenty" of playmakers to facilitate such an absence.
First-round rookie Jordan Addison, veteran K.J. Osborn and Brandon Powell are poised for more opportunity starting today against Chicago, but the Vikings might use more big formations with multiple tight ends, according to Pelissero.