Vikings star Justin Jefferson has found social media heat frustrating on long road to recovery

Jefferson says his health is more important than fans' fantasy teams

EAGAN, Minn. (AP) — Justin Jefferson has been frustrated about being sidelined by a hamstring injury while the Minnesota Vikings try to recover from a slow start and make the playoffs.

Taking heat from fantasy football players on social media about his absence hasn’t helped him handle the time away.

Jefferson posted a message on his since-deactivated X account this week in which he reminded his critics that his health is more important than their fantasy teams.

“I’ve been getting it for five, six weeks now,” Jefferson told reporters Friday before practice. “I’m just tired of it. It’s frustrating and it’s draining to want to be out there on the field, wanting to play and then all of these other sources saying different things that are not true on how you’re feeling.”

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson reacts from the sideline during the first half of an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers, Oct. 23, 2023, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs, File)

Jefferson has missed the past six games. He was designated for return two weeks ago and returned to practice but has yet to be cleared for game action. Jefferson said he’s been “getting to top speeds,” but his status for Monday night’s game against Chicago is still uncertain.

“I’m not sure,” Jefferson said. “We will see. We still have more days to practice and really evaluate everything. But we’re going to weigh the options correctly, making sure that I’m feeling well and prepared to play a game. If I’m feeling good, I will play.”

The hamstring injury has caused Jefferson to miss games for the first time in his prolific four-year career. The reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year had 36 catches, 571 yards and three touchdowns on 53 targets in the first five weeks.

The Vikings were 1-4 when Jefferson got hurt. Then they won five straight games — while losing quarterback Kirk Cousins to a season-ending torn Achilles tendon during that span — before last week’s 21-20 loss at Denver.

“We have urgency to win this football game,” coach Kevin O’Connell said. “We’re just not going to allow that to distract us from the fact that we started out with some really strong principles and making sure Justin was at a good place and 100 percent healthy when he would return.”

Jefferson said his recovery has “for the most part” followed the expected timeline. He’s trying to be patient. But that hasn’t been a failproof process for ignoring the online commentary.

“It’s honestly crazy the amount of people that really criticize you and talk very, very bad about you, calling you different names and you just trying to be healthy and just trying to be your best on the field,” Jefferson said. “At the end of the day, it is what it is. I’m more worried about my team and me being healthy, being on the field. All of that other stuff is going to come.”

Jefferson also reiterated that his absence, or the length of it, hasn’t been affected by his contract situation. The Vikings exercised the fifth-year option on Jefferson’s rookie deal in the offseason to tie him to the team through the 2024 season, but the two sides have yet to reach agreement on a long-term extension after talks stalled last summer.

“I know what I’m doing, and I know that it’s not for the contract,” Jefferson said. “It’s not for the contract at all. I said that from the beginning of the season that it wasn’t my main priority. My main priority at this moment is to be back on the field playing with my teammates and to compete for a Super Bowl.

“The contract will come whenever it comes.”

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