An Injury Delays Former Alabama TE Irv Smith Jr.’s 2021 NFL Season Start
Irv Smith Jr., a former Alabama tight end and 2019 Vikings draft pick, looked for 2021 to be his breakout year. That was until it was announced by NFL Network reporter Tom Pelissero on Sunday morning following the Viking's Friday night preseason finale that Smith had a meniscus injury. This will cause him to miss at least the first few weeks of the season.
A member of the 2017 Alabama national championship team and the 2016 and 2018 SEC Championship teams, he has spent the last two years working for the Minnesota offense behind veteran Kyle Rudolph. In 2019, he set the Vikings' rookie reception record for a tight end with 36 receptions. As for 2021, Smith was set to start the season as the first-string TE for the Vikings. Now, that will be put on hold as Minnesota works to figure out what they'll do in his absence.
Smith injured his meniscus during their last preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs. In that game, he played 11 snaps and was made available to media both during and after the game. It is unknown at what point Smith got injured in the game, and there aren't many details that have been put out about the seriousness of his injury quite yet.
In his Monday afternoon press conference, coach Mike Zimmer announced that Smith will undergo surgery performed by head team physician Dr. Chris Larson this week. When asked about the timetable for his return, Zimmer said, "We really won't know (the timeline) until you get in there."
The Vikings will hope it is a short rehab stint for Smith as their second-string TE Tyler Conklin is set to come back to practice today after rehabbing his hamstring, according to The Athletic's Chad Graff. Smith's recovery time is dependent on the severity of his injury, so we will hear more from the team later this week on whether he should be eligible to play by the end of this season or if this injury is more serious.
Smith ended the 2020 season with 15 receptions, 183 yards, and three touchdowns after Rudolph's suffered a season-ending injury. Hopefully, that was just a glance into a bright future as TE1 for Irv Smith Jr as he prepares to overcome this injury.
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