EAGAN, Minn. – Justin Jefferson has made the first step to being back in action.
The Vikings announced Jefferson returned to practice Wednesday, effectively activating the 21-day window in which the team can decide to elevate him from Injured Reserve to the 53-man roster.
Jefferson injured his hamstring during Minnesota's Week 5 game against Kansas City. He was added to Injured Reserve Oct. 11, determining he would miss at least the next four games.
The Vikings have navigated Jefferson's absence intentionally and successfully, having won four consecutive games to improve to 5-4 on the season.
Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell said Monday they're "working through" the timeline of Jefferson's return.
"Justin has done a phenomenal job in his rehab. He's still been a part of meetings. He's mentally in it," O'Connell said. "We're going to do what's best for Justin and make sure we're doing everything responsibly to make sure that when Justin does return, he can be the Justin Jefferson we all know and expect to see out there, and I just credit him for how he's worked through it and through this whole process."
Minnesota is scheduled to host New Orleans at noon (CT) Sunday.
O'Connell spoke to media members Wednesday.
"We did open up Justin Jefferson's window. He will be acclimated back in and through kind of a preset timeline that we're working through," O'Connell said. "He's killed his whole rehab and done great things, everything we've asked of him and now we can kind of systematically get him back to a place where we can have him out there with us."
O'Connell was asked if Jefferson could return before Minnesota's Week 13 bye.
"Yeah, I think we kind of have a rough timetable in our minds of what that looks like. I think we're just going to take it a day at a time from here on out," O'Connell said. "What this does is allow him to take part, little individual [drills] here and there, little bit of team period here or there, just getting a feel for, just getting back acclimated to being in the huddle, and then he's been great in meetings and with his treatments, and all those things will continue forward and now we can just kind of build it up little by little, but I do think Justin is on a good timeline, considering the outlook on this thing when we first kind of had this happen."
The Vikings held a walk-through session Wednesday. Jefferson tossed footballs with Vikings equipment assistant Terrell Barnes during the period that was open to media.
O'Connell was also asked if there was a chance Jefferson could play as early as this week and said "that would probably be a little aggressive."
"I think he feels really good. I know we all feel good about where he's at, but we're going to take it a day at a time, and ultimately, do what's best for Justin and his long-term future here with us in Minnesota and then clearly, he wants to get back and have an impact on this team," O'Connell said. "He's been, you guys have seen him, he's been all in, right there on the sidelines with his teammates, fighting it out, every single week through this whole stretch and he can't wait to get back out there."
Jefferson's day in Atlanta last week including going over to K.J. Osborn to offer encouragement to his draft classmate after Osborn suffered a concussion, and it also included enthusiastically celebrating the victory with teammates after Brandon Powell's touchdown catch from Joshua Dobbs with 22 seconds remaining.