Ever since Irv Smith Jr. had surgery on his thumb early in Training Camp, Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell has maintained that the tight end will be available for the season opener against the Green Bay Packers. In his first game week press conference as head coach, he made clear that hasn’t changed.
#Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell said today that nothing has happened to alter the original timetable on TE Irv Smith Jr. (thumb) returning for Week 1 against the Packers. O'Connell: "If anything, I feel as confident as ever that we'll have him."— Kevin Seifert (@SeifertESPN) September 5, 2022
O’Connell said on Monday morning that nothing has happened to change the timeline that Smith Jr. has been on and that O’Connell is “as confident as ever” that he’ll be a part of the Vikings’ offense this Sunday.
Smith Jr. hasn’t played in a regular-season game for the Vikings since the 2020 finale, and hasn’t played at all since the last game of the 2021 preseason that saw him get injured. He was expected to have a significant breakout last season before his injury, and those expectations have carried over to this year. It’s worth noting that this is also the final year of Smith’s rookie deal and he could play himself into a pretty large payday in 2023.
Having Smith Jr. out there on Sunday would be big for the new Vikings’ offense, as it would give Kirk Cousins a big target in the middle and help take some heat off of Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. We don’t know how big a role Smith Jr. might play on Sunday, but any role for him is better than no role at all.