Latest Injury Update on Vikings TE Irv Smith Jr. Has Good and Bad News

Irv Smith Jr.

Getty Vikings tight end Irv Smith Jr. underwent thumb surgery ahead of the team's season opener against the Packers on September 11.

After missing the entire 2021 season due to injury, Irv Smith Jr. gave Minnesota Vikings fans a scare when he left practice with a trainer momentarily on Monday.

He returned to the sidelines without a helmet later that day, but his absence from drills was warranted.

Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell told local media on August 2 that Smith suffered a thumb injury at practice the previous day and underwent surgery.

The sort-of good news?

He hasn’t been ruled out for the season opener against the Green Bay Packers on September 11 — less than six weeks away.

“The best move moving forward to fix that thing,” O’Connell said in a brief statement on Tuesday, August 2. “He had surgery today. With that being the decision, we really have a focus on that opener. We still feel very strongly about our process to get him back and hopefully have him, barring any setbacks, having him available for that opener.”

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Vikings OC: Smith ‘Should Be Good to Go’

Minnesota offensive coordinator Wes Phillips addressed what he expects of Smith who will be hampered for the remainder of training camp as he recovers from thumb surgery.

“He may not be able to catch balls for a little while — whatever that timetable is — but from a lower half perspective, he’s going to be able to get a lot of good work in. He’s going to be in shape he should be good to go, I know he’s hungry,” Phillips said in an August 2 press conference.

O’Connell essentially ruling Smith out for the remainder of training camp bodes on a general side of caution for the former second-round pick. Smith has been considered a breakout candidate for the past two seasons given his emergence as the team’s No. 1 tight end.

“Anytime someone is dinged up we all feel for Irv with how hard he’s worked in the offseason to get to where he’s at. But it just gets other guys opportunities to get in there and show what they can do,” Phillips added. “We got a big group of guys in there that are kind of vying for roles it will be good for them to get some more reps and see how that plays out.”

Smith previously missed the entire 2021 season after undergoing meniscus surgery just two weeks before the team’s season opener.

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Vikings Have Few Complete Tight Ends on Roster

While Phillips touted his confidence in Johnny Mundt, a former Los Angeles Rams tight end who came to Minnesota with Phillips and O’Connell, the Vikings don’t have many do-it-all tight ends on the depth chart.

Mundt, entering his sixth year in the NFL, accounts for 10 of the 11 career receptions for Minnesota’s tight end room. Ben Ellefson is primarily a blocking tight end, seeing just five targets last season, while Zach Davidson, a 2021 fifth-round pick, is a receiving tight end who has yet to adapt to the physicality of both run- and pass-blocking in the NFL.

All three returning tight ends should see more reps with Smith out for the foreseeable future along with undrafted rookie Nick Muse.

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