EAGAN, Minn. – Nick Muse didn't exhale until 3:02 p.m. Tuesday.
The Vikings tight end waited anxiously leading up to the NFL's deadline for reducing rosters to 53 active players per team.
But his phone didn't ring. And in this instance, no news is good news.
"Even at [3:01] I was kind of waiting for, 'Oops, we accidentally called you late,' " Muse laughed Thursday afternoon. "But it's definitely a good feeling."
The Vikings kept four tight ends on their initial 53-man roster: T.J. Hockenson, whom Minnesota extended Thursday, Josh Oliver, Johnny Mundt and Muse. Knowing where he stood on the depth chart heading into cut day, Muse understood he was "right there on the cusp of going either way."
"It's definitely cool to still be here," he said. "I'm not sure what the talks were upstairs about why, other than I just came in here and worked my butt off … I put it in the coaching staff's hands, and it was their decision to do whatever they needed to do."
View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of Sept. 26, 2023.
A 2022 seventh-round draft pick, Muse spent the first half of his rookie season on the Vikings practice squad. After being elevated to the active roster in November, he appeared in 10 games; all 108 of his snaps played were on special teams.
He said he's come "a long way" from first arriving in Minnesota last spring and is much better equipped to help the team on offense and special teams alike.
"Last year, I knew when I was getting cut that I wasn't particularly ready to be one of the guys who could be counted on," Muse admitted. "I don't know if I wasn't prepared or my body wasn't right or whatever, but it was just so much to learn in so little time.
"I went from, well, I wouldn't say 'little boy' necessarily because I was playing in the SEC, but but I definitely went to 'big boy' status [in the NFL] and had to learn a lot of things quickly," Muse said.
When he returned from the offseason break for Vikings OTAs in May, Muse found things clicked much faster and he was able to hit the ground running.
"The play concepts came to me very quickly, and I understood them a lot faster than when I came here as a rookie," he said. "And now it's like, 'OK, I've gotten reps on all these plays, so I should know them.'
"I don't think I was prepared last year, but coming into this year I knew I could make a difference on this team," Muse added.
During his collegiate career that started at William & Mary and finished at South Carolina, Muse learned from five different offensive coordinators. After being with Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell and Offensive Coordinator Wes Phillips last year, the 2023 season will mark his first instance of having the same offense in consecutive years since high school.
It's certainly an offensive system that benefits tight ends, too.
Not every team carries four tight ends plus a fullback on their active roster, but it's not inconceivable that Minnesota will utilize all of them at different times.
"We're sticking with tight end heavy, which I love," Muse said. "We've got playmakers who can block and catch in our room, and we're all four good enough to play in this league. I think so, the coaches think so, so it's definitely awesome for us because you can look around, and anybody in that room can get the job done."
Muse has earned the trust of his coaches and teammates alike.
Hockenson spoke to media members Thursday after signing his contract extension and talked highly of his younger teammate making the roster.
"Muse is my guy. He's a special human being," Hockenson said. "To have a guy like that who comes out to work every day, understands his role, understands he wants to get better every single day [is great]
"He's got a lot to learn, [and] that's special from a guy. You don't have many people at that position who are excited to come into work all the time, you know?" Hockenson continued. "To have him come out here, be his happy self – always a smile on his face, always making people's days better, always saying some things that are off the wall – that's just a great guy to have in your room. I'm super happy for him."
Muse's family of course is happy for him, too. And not just him but his older brother Tanner, who was waived Tuesday by Pittsburgh but claimed Wednesday by the Chargers. An inside linebacker who was drafted in 2020 by the Raiders, Tanner is now slated to meet his brother in Minnesota Week 3 when the Vikings host the Chargers at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The Muse family already has the date circled on the calendar.
"To have two brothers from the same household in the league's definitely something," Nick Muse said. "We'll definitely have family here. Family, friends, whoever wants to come from back home.
"We'll see if I even get a paycheck that week because I'll be buying so many tickets for our guests," he laughed. "If I can get them in the hotel and get them a ticket, I will."