The Minnesota Vikings will likely be without potential breakout tight end Irv Smith for the entire 2021 season.
Smith underwent meniscus surgery on Wednesday that will knock him out for four to five months, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero confirmed, per sources informed of the situation. The recovery timetable is likely to scuttle the entire campaign. The Vikings placed Smith on injured reserve later on Wednesday.
Pelissero added there was no ligament damage to Smith's knee.
ESPN first reported the news.
"Sometimes injuries are like that," Zimmer said about the Smith's injury. "Honestly, with Danielle (Hunter) last year, that was about as insignificant as you can imagine, but than you get in, and you X-ray and MRI and do all those things then you find out it's a lot more significant than you think."
The 23-year-old appeared poised for a massive season as the third pass-catcher behind Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson. Smith looked great during preseason action as a primary weapon and was slotted to see a ton of targets as the top tight end this year. A 6-foot-2 target, Smith's run-after-catch ability made him an enticing underneath target for Kirk Cousins.
The Vikings kept Smith on their initial 53-man roster before they ultimately placed him on injured reserve, so he could technically be activated later in the season if his recovery goes well and Minnesota makes a postseason run.
After becoming a second-round pick in 2019, Smith caught 66 passes for 676 yards and seven TDs in two seasons as the second tight end behind Kyle Rudolph. With Rudolph signing in New York this offseason, Smith was set to earn the lion's share of the reps.
Alas, the injury wipes out that potential.
With Wednesday's news, the Vikings' acquisition of Chris Herndon in a trade with the New York Jets on Tuesday becomes more vital. Herndon spent three years with Gang Green, compiling 796 yards and seven scores in 33 games. An athletic tight end with enticing ability, the 25-year-old could never find traction in New York. A change of scenery could finally unlock the talent.
"He was kind of a guy that was kind of pretty good in most areas -- decent blocker, pretty good hands, runs decent," Zimmer said of Herndon. "So, of all the tight ends we looked at, he was the one that we thought was the best option."
With Smith's injury, Herndon could see a sizable role alongside Tyler Conklin in Minnesota. Conklin also figures to have a more prominent role in 2021. Coach Mike Zimmer talked up Conklin having a bigger part to play in the offense earlier this summer. The fourth-year pro should slide into the TE1 role to open the season.