The Vikings valued the return of rejuvenated tight end Irv Smith Jr.

EAGAN, Minn. (AP) — Evidence of Irv Smith Jr.’s rejuvenated approach jumps out from under his chest, an inked outline of a butterfly on the left side of his neck symbolizing a new beginning.

After a freak knee injury he suffered while making a pedestrian weak block in a Presidents game ruled him out of the 2021 season, Smith returned his enviable tight end skills and anything but personality to the Minnesota Vikings offense. was miserably missed. , Fully recovered from surgery to repair a torn meniscus, Smith has been cleared to practice without limitation.

“It’s like a fresh start. I still reflect on what I’ve done in my past, but I’m excited for the future for me, the team, the offense,” Smith said.

For further inspiration, the third-year player — and son of former NFL tight end Irv Smith — added an even larger tattoo to the other side of his neck, depicting his mother, Rose Matamoros. Then on his right hand is another superhero: The Incredible Hulk.

“We’re going to kill some people,” said Smith with a wide grin.

The 2020 second-round draft pick from Alabama, who turns 24 on August 9, rarely goes tall without smiling. His confident and spirited demeanor certainly came in handy during the double whammy of knee rehab, a grueling process made potentially more hopeless and unable to contribute to a more powerless feeling.

“That’s how life is. Things get thrown at you you’re not expecting, but that’s how you bounce back,” Smith said. “You have to keep looking forward. You can’t look back.”

Considering the amount of attention Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen and Dalvin Cook commanded to oppose the strongholds, a tactic that is unlikely to be stopped, Smith sought to seize an important role for the Vikings. There is a clear opening for After Smith’s playing time was chewed up by veteran Kyle Rudolph in 2019 and 2020, everyone was looking forward to last season.

“I thought he was one of the most impressive players we had at training camp last year,” said quarterback Kirk Cousins.

Smith possessed the athleticism and versatility to be able to line up at the traditional end spot in a three-point stance, slot in the backfield or even split wide him as the new offense under head coach Kevin O’Connell. Makes a sound fit with. ,

O’Connell and offensive coordinator Wes Phillips, who built their philosophy with Super Bowl champion Los Angeles, quickly positioned Rams Tight end Tyler Higby as their preferred prototype as a capable blocker with downfield pace. Indicated as your favorite prototype for Phillips was the tight ends coach for Rams.

“When Irv really opens it, there’s a lot going on in the tank,” O’Connell said on Saturday, before the Vikings staged their first full-team exercise at training camp that was open to fans. .

The fact that Smith was involved in the workout was a significant victory for the Vikings.

“I feel like I’m going through this process rapidly, honestly, resetting my whole body,” Smith said. “I’ve never taken a break like this before. I’ve been playing the game all my life. Thinking and working on the things I wanted to work on. I don’t usually have time to work, it’s really It’s been good.”

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