Justin Jefferson Makes Strong Statement on Future With Vikings

Justin Jefferson

Getty The Vikings are considering the "big picture" and Justin Jefferson's long-term health after he suffered a hamstring injury in Week 5 against the Chiefs.

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson again overcame doubters of his talent this season in what some skeptics anticipated would be a sophomoric slump for the 22-year-old superstar.

“I heard all the people saying: ‘the sophomore slump him not being able to do it again,’ “Jefferson said in a January 6 press conference, referring to his record-breaking rookie year where he posted 1,400 receiving yards. “I listen to all of those things, and I just let that fuel towards my game.”

Despite having one additional game on the 18-week NFL schedule this season, Jefferson has already surpassed all of his rookie marks this season, posting 1,509 receiving yards (2nd in the NFL), 103 receptions (4th)  and nine receiving touchdowns (7th) through 16 games.

Earning his second Pro Bowl nod and contending for his second All-Pro mention, Jefferson is becoming an NFL darling.

However, Jefferson, embroiled in a tumultuous two seasons in Minnesota where the Vikings have yet to reach an above-.500 record, has been a subject of national media’s crosshairs, often calling out any signs of frustration as a desire to leave the Vikings.

Jefferson addressed his future with the franchise that could see many changes this coming offseason.

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‘All I Can Do is Focus on Me’

In a press conference approaching Minnesota’s final game of the season, a meaningless home matchup with the Chicago Bears where starters are expected to play, Jefferson was asked how frustrating it is missing the postseason after an enduring battle for a wild card spot.

“Very. According to the games that we lost, we should be in the playoffs right now. We should have one of the best records in the league,” Jefferson said. “We only shot ourselves in the foot. We only hurt ourselves — not finishing the game, not coming out with energy — little things to not put us up on that scoreboard, and that’s the tough thing about it. We’re one or two games from being in the playoffs and competing.”

Jefferson, still a full season away before being eligible for a contract extension, maintained he’s only focusing on what he can control despite calls for changes at head coach, general manager and quarterback echoing throughout the fan base this offseason.

“At the end of the day, all I can do is focus on me,” Jefferson said. “What I have to improve on. Focus on the things that I felt I was weak at this year. I’m only going to better myself. I’m going to meet up with those people around the league try and learn new things and advance my game to the next level. I’m excited.”

Jefferson has shown a team-first mentality throughout his first two seasons in Minnesota. However, if a cultural shift doesn’t happen soon, one analyst sees Jefferson following a similar path as other Vikings star receivers.

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Jefferson’s Callout on Offensive Playcalling a Sign for Concern

After a 30-23 loss to the Los Angeles Rams in Week 16, Jefferson called out the offensive playcalling, saying the team should be more aggressive in the red zone.

“I think we should be more aggressive when we get down there,” Jefferson said on December 26 after the Vikings struggled inside the 20-yard line, settling for a field goal and a touchdown on five trips to the red zone. “As soon as we get down there. But I’m not the one calling the plays. I’m just here to do my job and do what’s told of me. But we can’t get down in the red zone that many times and come out with three points.”

Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio warned that Jefferson’s comments shouldn’t be taken as just a flare-up of frustration.

“Jefferson’s comments should be regarded by Minnesota as a potential first step down the same slippery slope that resulted in Stefon Diggs eventually wanting out, and getting his wish,” Flori wrote.

Florio pointed to the trend of star receivers leaving the Vikings in Stefon Diggs, Percy Harvin and Randy Moss (twice).

“During the 16 years that the Wilfs have owned the Vikings, the team was unable to keep three great receivers happy. They now have to worry about a fourth eventually deciding to make a play to continue his career in a new city,” Florio wrote.

Jefferson has maintained a team-first mentality as a young player strapped to a four-year rookie contract. He is eligible for an extension after next season, which the Vikings should pounce on the opportunity to secure the star receiver for the long term.

But there will need to be promising changes that make Minnesota’s pursuit of the playoffs less of a mirage and more of a destination to convince Jefferson, whose championship pedigree at LSU drives his hunger for a title in the NFL.

“It’s definitely tough not being in the playoffs, not winning more than we’ve lost. There’s so many things that could happen, that could change us being in the playoffs or us having a winning season,” Jefferson said. “We just have to find a way to change it around. Everybody got to be on the same page. We all got to have that same goal to reach that Super Bowl and win it. Until then, we just got to find that spark, find that way to win.”

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