Irv Smith Has Already Had an Injury Scare in Camp

Irv Smith Jr.
Nov 8, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end Irv Smith (84) catches a pass for a touchdown against the Detroit Lions in the third quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The emergence of Irv Smith Jr. at tight end has been anticipated ever since the conclusion of the 2020 season. In that campaign, Smith recorded 30 receptions, 365 yards, and five touchdowns while capturing the TE1 spot down the stretch of the year. 2021 was supposed to be his coming out party, but that flame was extinguished when he tore his meniscus in the preseason game against the Chiefs. Now, Smith is supposedly the Vikings “best kept secret” ahead of 2022.

In order for Smith to truly reach his potential though, he needs to be able to remain on the field. Already just a few days into training camp, he’s had an injury scare that held him out of portions of the first practice with pads. Initially, this didn’t seem like a major issue, but as it turns out, the injury was to his thumb and required surgery on Tuesday.

This is a concerning situation that I’ll be keeping my eye on for a couple reasons. Firstly, even though the Vikings were wearing pads, it’s not quite like this practice was at a full game-speed. What’s going to happen when preseason games get here or the season-opener against the Green Bay Packers?

Secondly, the tight end position looks like one of the true weaknesses on the 2022 Minnesota Vikings roster. Tyler Conklin left this offseason for the New York Jets. Kyle Rudolph’s reunion with Minnesota is no longer possible after he signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Other than Smith, here are the other players on the Vikings roster at the position:

  1. Johnny Mundt
  2. Ben Ellefson
  3. Zach Davidson
  4. Nick Muse
  5. Shaun Beyer

Mundt has shown flashes of promise thus far into camp, but he still has just 10 career NFL receptions. If Smith were to miss time, and he were to step in as the starter, I’ll still be holding my breath. Aside from Mundt, Ellefson is the only other tight end on the roster with an NFL reception. And he has exactly one reception. It was brought in with the Jacksonville Jaguars during the 2020 season.

Needless to say, the Vikings are banking on Smith being healthy at the tight end position to carry their production on offense. Perhaps this is just another example of a writer being paranoid, but at least to me, it seems like there is cause for concern with Irv Smith.