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Vikings Offense Preparing in case Justin Jefferson Sidelined

EAGAN, Minn. – Justin Jefferson's hamstring injury was still being evaluated Monday as Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell participated in his day-after-game media session.

The Vikings are preparing for an offense potentially without star receiver Justin Jefferson.

Jefferson injured his hamstring Sunday early in the fourth quarter of Minnesota's 27-20 loss to the Chiefs. O'Connell said the team did not yet have a timetable for his return.

"We're going to do what's best for Justin," O'Connell said Monday, "and make sure we give him the treatment and plan that is a big picture positive for him. … He's down right now, but the goal is to get him healthy."

O'Connell added that the team will protect Jefferson "from himself," given his competitive nature.

"I think there will probably be a couple different opinions on it, but we've got to get the MRI of it and take a look and find out exactly what it is, where it is, if there are any other factors that go into it and determine what the best decision for him to get him back to 100 percent as fast as possible," O'Connell said. "He obviously is one of the most ultra-competitors I've ever met, and shoot, he was trying to go back in the game as it was yesterday. So we're gonna have to medically make a good decision and help kind of almost protect him from himself a little bit in a way where we've got to take care of him and get him back to 100 percent."

Jefferson missed the final 21 offensive plays after he exited the game with a slight limp following a third-and-6 play during which a pass intended for K.J. Osborn fell incomplete.

In his absence, six different Vikings caught a pass. Osborn, Brandon Powell and Jordan Addison each made multiple receptions.

Addison had a career day, catching a team-high six passes for 64 yards and a touchdown.

"That's why I'm here. That's why they brought me here, for me to show them my abilities and my athleticism. I feel like I'm pretty much doing it," Addison said. "Five games in, it's pretty much slowing down, but each week I'm going up against a pretty solid opponent, so I've got to make sure I'm not getting complacent, I'm staying at the top of my game, and I'm working hard throughout the week of practice."

The rookie receiver has scored in three of his first five career games. His three touchdowns are tied for fifth in the league and lead rookie pass catchers.

"The thing that really jumped out yesterday was how fast he was playing. I don't know if you guys felt that as well, but no matter what he was doing, he was running and was going. He was getting on edges, running away from coverage," O'Connell said. "He's getting maximum yards after catch. Elite hands catches. So many things you like about receiver play, he does so naturally and he's just improving with every opportunity he gets."

Addison said he's ready to step up if Jefferson does miss time. O'Connell added that he's confident in the team's pass catchers behind Jefferson.

"I'm very confident in that group. I think Jordan [Addison] had a huge game yesterday. It could have been even bigger, and quite honestly, there were some ops out there for him, and he'll continue to thrive," O'Connell said. "A big thing for him now, and K.J. and really the rest of our receiving corps, our tight ends group and C.J. [Ham] as a fullback, how can we continue to activate a lot of things when a lot of our pass game has really been built around so much coverage being deployed to Justin [Jefferson]."

O'Connell said a potential Jefferson absence could alter how teams defend quarterback Kirk Cousins and the passing offense.

With Jefferson, defenses tend to play to two-high safeties to send double coverage at the All-Pro receiver. That could change, but considering Jefferson hasn't missed a game during O'Connell's tenure, it's challenging to forecast.

Regardless, Hockenson and Addison will likely remain a focal point of the offense. But O'Connell stressed that there are opportunities the team is leaving on the field.

" 'Can we just tighten everything up just a little bit more?' That kind of goes in line with, 'Can we just do a little more? Do it a little bit cleaner. Do it a little bit better. A little bit more detail? A little bit more urgency on everything we do,' " O'Connell said. "And it starts with me and I'm going to be driving that minute-to-minute here."

With or without Jefferson, Minnesota is entering divisional play for the first time this season. Six of the Vikings 12 remaining games are against the NFC North.

"These road division games are very, very critical to the overall landscape of your season," O'Connell said. "There's still, our season, our whole season in my opinion, is still out in front of us with 12 games left to go, including half of those being in the division. Guys are back at work today, and we'll continue to chase improvement every single day and continue to try to hone in on the areas that we have to improve, which are very obvious as of this point."