Minnesota Vikings tight end Irv Smith Jr. was considered a breakout candidate this season in his first year as the team’s top tight end.
Those plans have been put on hold.
NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported that Smith “is expected to undergo surgery for a meniscus injury that will sideline him for at least the start of the regular season, per sources.”
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Possible Outcomes for Smith
The timetable for Smith’s return is still unknown, however, there are two possible outcomes — one of which would end the third-year tight ends season before it ever began.
Pro Football Focus injury analyst Mario Pilato detailed that if Smith undergoes a meniscectomy, he could miss two to four weeks. Meniscectomies are considered a minor procedure for a meniscus tear and wouldn’t require a significant recovery window.
However, if Smith needs a full meniscus repair, he will be out for the season and require six to eight months of recovery, per Pilato.
Fantasy Doctor’s Jesse Morse, a licensed sports medicine specialist of eight years, described the severity of allowing a torn meniscus to go untreated, which would lead to Smith having arthritis in his knee.
“This would be very severe, which is why this needs to be done appropriately, and the correct manner needs to be chosen at the initial onset,” Morse said.
Despite the severity of the injury, Smith did not look visibly ailed when he played in Friday’s preseason loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. He played 25 snaps on offense, none of which he appeared to sustain an injury, per ESPN’s Courtney Cronin.
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The Vikings offense is predicated on two-tight end sets, and Smith figured to play a substantial role this season. With Smith officially out at least for Week 1, the Vikings have an added wrinkle to their roster-building over the next two days.
The team’s second tight end, Tyler Conklin, is injured but has not been reported to be out ahead of the season opener. He left practice a couple of weeks ago with a hamstring injury and has not been an active participant since, per Inside The Vikings‘ Will Ragatz. Conklin did not play a single snap in the preseason, but his condition is unclear.
That leaves one NFL catch between the trio of reserve tight ends, courtesy of third-year tight end Brandon Dillon. Fifth-round pick Zach Davidson has struggled in camp and the preseason, most recently being called out by general manager Rick Spielman during the Chiefs loss.
Minnesota State and homegrown hero Shane Zylstra are at the bottom of the depth chart due to his size. Both Davidson and Zylstra were considered on the chopping block for 53-man roster cuts but considered the state of the tight end position. One could make the active roster.
The 53-man roster deadline is Tuesday at 3 p.m. Depending on the prognosis of Smith’s injury, the Vikings could place Smith on the injured reserve list and make room for an additional tight end on the roster.
If that happens, Smith would not be eligible to return until at least Week 4 — which would not indicate the nature of his surgery.