Justin Jefferson and the Minnesota Vikings waited seven games for the star wide receiver to rejoin the offense, enduring an arduous and calculated rehabilitation process while his injured hamstring healed.
The Vikings hadn't yet made it to halftime in his return, when a frustrated Jefferson found himself in the back of an ambulance.
The hard hit he took to the chest in the second quarter Sunday at Las Vegas forced him out of the game for good — and, to his chagrin, to the hospital for precautionary testing.
“It had some pain at the impact, but I’ve been out for too long. I wanted to continue to play, continue to battle out there with my brothers,” Jefferson said. “I definitely broke down a little bit after they told me that I wasn’t going to be able to go back into the game.”
Further evaluation for internal bleeding, broken ribs and other serious conditions Sunday revealed no reason he couldn't return to the stadium and fly home with the team. Jefferson has been practicing this week on a limited basis, but he said Wednesday without hesitation that he has no restriction and will play Saturday at Cincinnati. The diagnosis, he said, is a deep internal bruise.
“I’m definitely blessed to be in this situation,” Jefferson said. “I’ve just got to keep going, keep doing what I need to do, and hopefully Saturday I can give what everybody is expecting.”
Jefferson had two receptions for 27 yards against the Raiders. He has 38 catches for 598 yards this season, remarkable totals for less than 5½ games but still disappointing for Jefferson's standards. He said last week in advance of his return he's aiming for 1,000 yards, still a viable goal with the Vikings (7-6) having four games remaining on the regular season schedule.
On the ride to the hospital, as he watched the game on his phone with the sirens blaring outside, Jefferson said he was scared but still confident he would've been fine to return to the field. Once he arrived at the emergency room, he stayed fixated on the screen — with audible and demonstrative reactions to the action.
“The people that were really hurt, they probably were annoyed by me,” Jefferson said with a big laugh. “It was definitely an experience for me that I don't want again.”
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