Vikings Insider Reveals Troubling Timeline for T.J. Hockenson Return from Knee Injury Next Season

Minnesota Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson
Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings season was derailed in 2023 by devastating injuries, including to quarterback Kirk Cousins and tight end T.J. Hockenson. While Cousins’ recovery from an Achilles tear is impacting his free agency, Hockenson’s return from an ACL tear has its own issues.

Related: Elite 2024 QB prospect interested in playing for Minnesota Vikings

Hockenson, 26, suffered a season-ending knee injury on Dec. 24 against the Detroit Lions. The Vikings’ medical staff quickly knew it was an ACL tear, with an MRI later confirming the diagnosis. Making matters worse, the imaging scan also revealed an MCL tear, which meant surgery had to be delayed.

  • T.J. Hockenson stats (2023): 95 receptions, 960 receiving yards, 5 touchdowns in 15 games

Minnesota Vikings could be without T.J. Hockenson for multiple games in 2024

T.J. Hockenson Minnesota Vikings
Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

As a result, Hockenson didn’t undergo surgery (performed by renowned surgeon Dr. Neal ElAttrache) until Jan. 29. For those counting, that’s 39 days after he originally suffered the injury. While there have been no reported complications since the procedure, ESPN’s Kevin Seifert recently explained why Hockenson might not play in Week 1.

“Multiple sources told ESPN there have been no complications from the surgery, but emphasized the typical recovery from the type of injury he suffered is nine months….It’s early in the process, and Hockenson’s schedule could either be accelerated or slowed based on the timing of various milestones. But the most relevant question is not whether he will be ready for Week 1, but instead, whether he will be placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list — making him ineligible to play until Week 5 at the earliest”

Kevin Seifert on T.J. Hockenson’s ACL and MCL surgery, timeline of recovery for Minnesota Vikings star

When Hockenson was first diagnosed with an ACL tear, there was some hope he could return to the field for the season-opener in 2024. However, recent examples of players who underwent ACL surgery highlight the risk of Hockenson not returning as fast as expected.

  • T.J. Hockenson contract – salary cap hits (Spotrac):
    • 2024: $14.05 million
    • 2025: $15.1 million
    • 2026: $19.6 million
    • 2027: $21.6 million

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray, for example, suffered an ACL tear on Dec. 12, 2023, against the New England Patriots. He had a clean recovery, but didn’t get back on the field until Week 10 of the 2023 season. Josh Dobbs started the first half of the season in Arizona, until Murray was able to return, and then Dobbs was traded to Minnesota.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin is another example. After tearing his ACL and MCL on Dec. 19, 2021, the Pro Bowl wideout returned for Week 1 the following season but suffered a hamstring strain and then was forced to sit out the next two games.

Related: Minnesota Vikings reporter unveils team’s interest in 2024 NFL Draft QB class

Hockenson’s delayed surgery further pushes back his potential timeline for a return and there are obvious risks that, if he is rushed back, it could result in another injury forces him to miss even more time. Unless TJ goes full Adrian Peterson on his recovery and sets a new comeback standard for this type of surgery, it appears the PUP list is more likely, than not…

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