Vikings, Jefferson share mutual love

Published 10:36 am Thursday, December 24, 2020

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MINNEAPOLIS — The pass from Kirk Cousins sailed through the end zone and over Justin Jefferson’s outstretched arm, one of a handful of missed chances for Minnesota in a six-point loss last week to Chicago that all but forced the Vikings out of the chase for the playoffs.

Jefferson turned toward his quarterback and shouted his frustration with the incompletion, using an expletive to emphasize his belief the ball should have been delivered earlier, and the closest microphone from Fox’s camera crew made the complaint audible on the broadcast.

Dissension on an underperforming team? Another diva receiver?

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Not if you asked anyone on the Vikings. Jefferson himself was quick to chime in after the game and the clip was tumbling through the Twittersphere, steadfast in his confidence in Cousins and dismissal of the egotism suggested by the social media masses so adept at blowing real-time topics out of proportion.

“One of the most selfless people that I’ve been around as a receiver. Just goes out there, handles his job, grinds, competitive,” fellow Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen said. “Obviously wants the football, wants to help the team win, but, man, he’s a great teammate.”

Jefferson has already established the franchise single-season rookie record for receptions (73), set first in 1998 by Pro Football Hall of Fame member Randy Moss, and has two games left to break the receiving yards mark (1,313). Jefferson has 1,182 yards, tops among rookies in the league this season to become one of two Pro Bowl picks on the Vikings, along with running back Dalvin Cook.

“I’m honored to be on that list up with the top guys in the NFL. I’m just ready to keep going. This is only my first year,” said Jefferson, who was taken out of LSU with the first-round draft pick acquired from Buffalo in the trade for wide receiver Stefon Diggs. “So many things to improve on, so many things to work on, definitely a bright start.”

Attitude is clearly not on that to-do list, no matter how mad he might have been about that incompletion against the Bears when he had eight receptions for 104 yards.

“So many players have done that plenty of times,” Jefferson said, adding: “Kirk’s my guy. Everybody knows Kirk’s my guy. It’s just the emotions involved, just frustrated during the play. That has nothing to do with me and Kirk.”

According to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, Jefferson is third in the league with an average of 2.8 yards per pass route run, trailing Green Bay’s Davante Adams and Tennessee’s Corey Davis.

“It comes down to production on the field. I think that’s where he separates himself,” Cousins said. “I never noticed that his swagger set him apart, his mindset. He’s just a playmaker.”