EAGAN, Minn. -- A right hamstring injury ended Justin Jefferson's hopes of breaking the NFL record for receiving yards in a season and eclipsing the 2,000-yard mark, at least for this year.
As the Minnesota Vikings receiver prepares to return Sunday after a seven-game absence, he has set his sight on a new number.
"Since I got hurt the new goal is 1,000 yards," Jefferson said Thursday. "I want to end every single year over 1,000 yards."
Jefferson opened this season on a blazing pace, averaging an NFL-high 135.8 yards per game during the first four weeks. At that rate, he would have obliterated Calvin Johnson's record of 1,964 yards by Week 15. He instead has been stuck at 571 yards since suffering the injury in Week 5 against the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Miami Dolphins' Tyreek Hill (1,481 yards) is the player with the best chance of breaking Johnson's record this season.
"It's been hard to adjust those goals honestly," Jefferson said. "To have missed seven games throughout the season, especially on the pace that I was going before the injury. It's a little tough to see Tyreek going crazy every single week, to see different people throughout the whole league doing tremendous things. It's been tough because it's the first season that I've been hurt since I've been into the league."
Jefferson and the Vikings agreed that he would not return until he was 100 percent healthy, and Sunday will be the end of an eight-week recovery process, including the team's Week 13 bye. Jefferson said he was close to being ready for a Week 12 game against the Chicago Bears, but ultimately he and the team decided to take advantage of the bye week and target Sunday's game at the Las Vegas Raiders to ensure he would have his full explosiveness.
"If I didn't have [that explosiveness now] I wouldn't be playing," he said. "That was the main focus in getting back on that field: having that same explosion, having that same power, having that same speed that I had before the injury."
Meanwhile, another key Vikings player has begun working back from his own injury. Linebacker Jordan Hicks, who had emergency surgery Nov. 12 after developing compartment syndrome in his right shin, said that "we're pretty optimistic about being able to come back this year."
Hicks had suffered a shin contusion during the Vikings' game against the New Orleans Saints. By the end of the third quarter, however, he said he began feeling numbness in his toes and had lost all strength in the leg. After retreating to the locker room, he said the pain became "excruciating." He began sweating profusely and was lying in a fetal position when medical officials decided to send him to the hospital.
He was in surgery less than an hour later, he said. As a result, Hicks suffered no permanent damage in a scenario that often results in muscle loss or even amputation.
"I feel extremely blessed and thankful for being in the situation that I'm in right now," Hicks said. "It was obviously a scary situation. I didn't realize how bad it could have been."