EAGAN, Minn. — Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell said Tuesday that tight end Irv Smith, Jr., has undergone thumb surgery for an injury sustained at Monday's practice.
Smith, who spent the offseason rehabbing a torn meniscus that cost him his entire third season, left the field with several periods remaining in Minnesota's first full-padded practice of 2022. He returned without a helmet and watched the final part of practice from the sideline.
"He did in fact sustain a thumb injury, that after consulting with our doctors and Tyler [Williams], Uriah [Myrie] and their staff, we decided the best move moving forward would be to go ahead and fix that thing, so we went ahead and did that," O'Connell said. "He had surgery today. Obviously with that being the decision, we really had to focus on that opener. We still feel very strongly about our process to get him back and hopefully have him, barring any setbacks, available for that [season] opener."
The Vikings and Smith worked hard together to enable him to hit the ground running as training camp opened. He explained his excitement for getting back on the grass, as well as the meaning behind his freshly inked butterfly tattoo.
Vikings Offensive Coordinator Wes Phillips said the Vikings will support Smith in his recovery. He expects other tight ends on the roster to maximize their added opportunities while Smith is on the mend.
"We all feel for Irv with how hard he's worked in the offseason to get to where he's at – but it just gives other guys opportunities to get in there and show what they can do," said Phillips, who coached tight ends from 2013-21 for three different NFL teams. "We're excited about obviously bringing Johnny Mundt here. Ben Ellefson has had a nice camp thus far. Zach Davidson is a talented guy who is getting better every day. We signed Shaun Beyer. So, we've got a big group of guys in there that are kind of vying for roles, and it will be good for them to get some more reps and see kind of how that plays out."
Phillips and O'Connell have a valuable familiarity with Mundt from their time together in Los Angeles.
"Johnny's a smart player. He's always going to know what to do," Phillips said. "He's physical in the run game. In L.A., the defensive players started calling him 'Strong Hands Mundt.' He would throw those hands, and it wasn't a pass game comment.
"Johnny's physical in the run game, he's explosive as a runner, and he's just kind of a guy that – any time he got his opportunity in real games, we started calling him 'The Bear Killer' because it just happened that [Tyler] Higbee would be out when we played Chicago, and every time he got his opportunity, he just produced."
Mundt caught three passes for 48 yards against the Bears on Oct. 26, 2020.
Playing it smart with Nwangwu
O'Connell also provided an update on running back Kene Nwangwu, who did not practice Monday.
"We're day-to-day there. He kind of sustained a soft tissue, lower leg injury, a leg injury, and we're just taking it, being smart early on," O'Connell said. "There's still so much training camp out in front. We obviously want to be able to see what he can do, not only in the games, but against the Niners as well, so we're just trying to be smart and make sure we don't turn a short-term setback into what could be a longer-term deal if we weren't smart about it. That's why we have much smarter people than me helping make those decisions."
The Vikings will not be in full pads today but are scheduled to wear them again Wednesday. O'Connell said Minnesota will issue pre-planned vet days to Jesse Davis, Harrison Smith and Patrick Peterson on Tuesday.
"They just got some good work in the walk-through," O'Connell said. "We'll go ahead and give them one of those predetermined, planned veteran days so we have them at their best for not only Wednesday but, including tomorrow, we'll have four padded practices in the next six days, so we just want to be smart with those guys.
"But like we always do, [we'll] challenge those guys to use these walk-throughs and the meeting time to make sure they're dialed in, and I fully expect them to do that," O'Connell added.