Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson won't be activated off IR, downgraded to out vs. the Saints

The New Orleans Saints are thanking their lucky stars right now.

After missing four games straight games with a hamstring injury, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson finally returned to practice this week. As a result, there was optimism on the Vikings part, and more than likely dread on the end of the Saints' secondary.

The latter can rejoice a little bit because the Vikings announced Saturday they're not activating the reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year from injured reserve.

“It’s just all about how I’m feeling and how strong the hamstring is,” Jefferson told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “The hamstring is a difficult injury just because it lingers, and it comes back from time to time if you don’t put the right treatment into it.

“So the guys on the rest of the coaching staff in this building know my worth on the field, and they want me 100 percent — as I do, as well. I don’t want to go out there 80, 90 percent and have the chance of hurting it again. It’s just day-to-day, like I said, and when that time comes, I’ll definitely be ready to step out on that field.”

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson watches action from the sideline during the first half of an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers, Monday, Oct. 23, 2023 in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson will be on the sideline for a fifth straight game as he continues to nurse his hamstring injury. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)

Jefferson was admittedly looking forward to playing against his hometown Saints at U.S. Bank Stadium, but continues to trust the recovery schedule. This is the first time in his NFL career that he's missed any games, and he's made it clear that he wants to return to the field.

He's been on the sideline for each of the last four games and was one of Joshua Dobbs' biggest supporters after the quarterback engineered an unfathomable comeback against the Atlanta Falcons in his Minnesota debut last week.

“That’s a no-brainer,” Jefferson said. “I’m always going to want to play football whether we didn’t win the game or had won every single game this season.

"I love the game of football. I always say that I want to be a Hall of Famer, so I can't just sit out missing games for the fun of, just because we're not doing well. I know that I have a big role on this team, and every chance I get to be on that field, I want to make the most of those opportunities."

By practicing on Wednesday, Minnesota opened Jefferson's 21-day window to return to the active roster. The team now has until Nov. 29 to bring Jefferson back, and the Vikings' bye week starts Dec. 3. Should they choose to do things that way, the 22-year-old could be brought back for Minnesota's Dec. 10 game against the Las Vegas Raiders.

The Vikings are 5-4 after reeling off four consecutive wins since Jefferson strained his hamstring in the fourth quarter of Minnesota's loss to the Chiefs on Oct. 8.