Irv Smith Is Expected to Play Role in the Vikings Playoff Run

Irv Smith Is "Expected" to Play Role in Vikings Playoff Run
Oct 9, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end Irv Smith Jr. (84) reacts late during the fourth quarter against the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Last week, the Minnesota Vikings designated TE Irv Smith Jr. to return to practice after an extended stint on injured reserve dealing with a high ankle sprain. Now, after about a week of practice, Vikings offensive coordinator Wes Phillips said during a press conference on Wednesday that Irv Smith is expected to play a role in the Vikings playoff run.

Head coach Kevin O’Connell had been hinting at a possible return for a couple weeks prior to his designation, and now after being able to practice for a week, the fact that Phillips would suggest the same is a promising sign for the tight end ahead of his free agency this offseason.

Smith has been projected to have breakout seasons for a couple years now, but injuries have derailed that from happening. Last season, Smith’s year ended before it could even begin after he suffered a torn meniscus in the final preseason game. In his stead, Tyler Conklin had a breakout season of his own, and this past offseason, earned a lucrative deal with the New York Jets.

Oct 18, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end Irv Smith Jr. Mandatory Credit: Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports.

This year, Smith has been out since Week 8 when he suffered a high ankle sprain against the Arizona Cardinals. The injury was expected to hold the tight end out for anywhere from 6-10 weeks, and we are currently within that timeframe for him to return.

After the injury occurred, the Vikings obviously went out and made the trade to acquire T.J. Hockenson from the Detroit Lions, giving them a bonafide top-10 player at the tight end position. Since then, Hockenson has fit into the Vikings offense beautifully, including a 13-catch performance in Week 16 against the Giants. Now, there seems to be a good chance that the Vikings have a pair of dynamic tight ends going into the playoffs with Hockenson and Smith.

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Sep 19, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end Irv Smith Jr. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports.

Following the season, as aforementioned, Smith is set to hit free agency. A few productive weeks in the playoffs could be the turning point in his career as he hopes to ink a new contract in the NFL. While the Hockenson trade means Smith’s next deal is unlikely to be with the Vikings, his presence as a de facto wide receiver addition could be huge for Minnesota this January.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing. He also earned minors in History, Human Biology, and Journalism. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys marathon training, playing video games, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. For more of his opinions, check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.