Justin Jefferson's confidence is sky-high.
And why shouldn't it be? After last year navigating an all-virtual offseason program and spending the majority of his phenomenal rookie campaign playing in fan-less stadiums, this summer he's grateful for familiarity with Minnesota's offense and building increased camaraderie with his teammates.
Jefferson racked up 88 catches for 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns in 2020. And rather than looking to simply stave off a sophomore slump, he's setting the bar even higher in 2021.
"I started Week 3 [last year], so now being able to start from the first game of the season, it feels good," Jefferson said during his first in-person session with Twin Cities media members. "I feel a lot more confident, I'm ready for the season, and I know what to expect coming into the season, so everything is going to go a lot more smoothly.
"Going into this year, having a whole year with Kirk [Cousins] and the rest of the guys on this team, I feel way more confident," he later added. "I feel like I'm going to do even more, better than I did last year."
View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of Jan. 5, 2022.
Cousins also was asked about Jefferson "taking a next step" heading into Year 2, and the quarterback didn't bat an eye.
"If he were to have the exact same [production] he had last year and do it like 12 or 13 times, he's probably going to Canton, I would guess. I'm not saying that to put pressure on him, I'm just saying when you talk about 'what's the next step?' – it's not changing who he is; it's doing it again," Cousins said. "And then doing it again, and then doing it again, and I think it's more about consistency than it is about changing.
"I've learned how difficult that is in my career watching and observing how few guys are able to do that over double-digit years," Cousins added. "That's what I've challenged him to do, that's what he'll be challenging himself to do, but I think the key is also don't try to change anything or reinvent yourself. You're a great player, and just keep doing it."
Quote of the Day
"I've got some meaty boys in front of me, as everybody knows. They're excited to play. I'm excited to play behind them, and we'll make things correct this year."
- Eric Kendricks
After a down year defensively for the Vikings, Kendricks is raring to go. The seventh-year linebacker is excited not only to play with a healthy Anthony Barr but especially with Minnesota's revamped defensive line. Kendricks didn't hold back his anticipation for playing behind trenches anchored by the likes of Michael Pierce, Dalvin Tomlinson and Danielle Hunter, who's returning to action after being sidelined all last season.
2 More Points
Here are two other takeaways from Wednesday's media session:
1. 'New-school' coach?
Kendricks was asked about differences in Head Coach Mike Zimmer from Kendricks' rookie 2015 season and now.
"I feel like when I first got here, Zim' was a super old-school coach," Kendricks said. "And obviously he has those tendencies to his coaching style, but I really feel like as we go on, he tries to adapt to maybe new techniques or some new technology that he may receive in his ear from the training staff.
"We're always progressing; we're always trying to get better," he continued. "That's what it's all about, and I feel like he adapts to that."
2. Support for Simone
During his media session, running back Dalvin Cook addressed Olympics gymnast Simone Biles' decision to withdraw from competition due to mental health concerns.
"You know, mental health is one of the things that goes unnoticed for a lot of athletes – for a majority of the athletes. And for her to do that, I think it was great for her to take a step back and focus on herself," Cook said. "I think it goes unnoticed because we try to please a lot of people. We've got to go out here on Sundays, we've got to work hard, take care of our body – do a lot of things – and that can kind of go unnoticed.
"If you're not healthy in the mind, your body's not going to compete at a high level. I think that's what she was getting at," Cook continued. "She's not in the right state of mind, so, 'I'm not going to put myself out there to get hurt.' … She needs to take as much time as she can and get where she needs to be. I'm praying for her, and I take that very seriously."
Cook said he makes it a point to check in with family members and make sure they're doing OK mentally and emotionally.
"Because people can try to hide things a lot and try to be bigger than the moment or bigger than a lot of things, and they're not focusing on themselves a lot of times," Cook said. "I'm praying for her, and I hope she gets back to being who she is."
Vikings Legend Robert Smith is scheduled to participate in a Q&A with fans at the Minnesota Vikings Museum after Thursday's practice (approximately 4:15 p.m.). Museum tickets are required to participate.