Last week, Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell told reporters that tight end Irv Smith Jr. was on track to be ready for the team’s season opener against the Green Bay Packers, and yesterday appears to have confirmed that.
Smith returned to practice in a limited capacity on Monday afternoon, three weeks after he had surgery on his right thumb. According to reports, he took part in individual drills and a limited number of full-team snaps, but was not seen catching the ball quite yet.
As we know, Smith is coming off of a lost season as he sat out all of 2021 after a knee injury. He was expected to have a big season last year and those expectations have carried over to this season.
O’Connell was impressed by Smith’s performance in his return to practice.
“He looks like he’s in great shape, so I credit our sports performance staff and [strength coach] Josh Hingst for keeping him ready to go and engaged despite him being out of surgery and not being able to do much,” O’Connell added. “He’ll continue to progress into real football, but he’s made great strides and I’m proud of the way Irv’s attacked this thing.”
The Vikings have given several of their tight ends an opportunity in preseason action, but it’s quite clear that none of them are ready to handle the sort of load in the offense that Smith is expected to handle this season. Here’s hoping that the optimism is warranted and we’ll see Smith back out on the field for Week 1.