Vikings tight end Irv Smith Jr. was recently warming up with teammates Adam Thielen and Dalvin Cook, and Cook asked when was the last time he had played in a game.
Smith first answered that it was a game at Kansas City on Aug. 27, 2021. But he said he then shifted course.
“That was preseason, it wasn’t regular season,’’ Smith said. “So the last game was Detroit when (quarterback) Kirk (Cousins) did The Griddy.”
Smith’s last regular-season game was in the finale of the 2020 season, when he caught two passes for 30 yards in Minnesota’s 37-35 win at Detroit on Jan. 3, 2021. Later, in that preseason game at Kansas City, he suffered a torn meniscus in his knee that sidelined him for the 2021 season.
Smith returned for training camp but on Aug. 1, the first day in pads, he suffered a right thumb injury. He underwent surgery Aug. 2, and missed the entire preseason.
But Smith is now back. He will return to action in Sunday’s opener against Green Bay at U.S. Bank Stadium.
“I can’t wait,’’ he said. “It’s been a long time. I ‘ve put in a lot of work through this offseason and through this period, so I’m just ready to go out there and have fun with my team and compete and do what we need to do.”
Smith said his thumb is fully healed and he anticipates no problems in catching the ball. He also has no concerns about his conditioning.
“I feel great,’’ he said. “(The training staff) had a great plan since I wasn’t out there practicing. I had to get my conditioning up. They were very adamant about that.’’
Smith will take the field Sunday as the Vikings’ first-string tight end, a role he never before has had in the regular season. He was the backup behind Kyle Rudolph as a rookie in 2019 and in 2020. He did get 14 starts in those two seasons, four when Rudolph was out due to injury and 10 when the Vikings opened with two tight ends.
“I’m definitely pumped,’’ Vikings tackle Christian Darrisaw, who was a rookie last season, said about playing in a game with Smith for the first time. “Just having him on the field is going to open up a lot more things. It’s going to be fun.”
BLACKLOCK SETTLES FOR 96
Vikings defensive lineman Ross Blacklock has moved on after failing to acquire his beloved No. 90.
After Blacklock was acquired Aug. 30 from Houston, he offered Vikings rookie defensive lineman Esezi Otomewo $30,000 get No. 90, which he had worn in high school, college and in the NFL. But he was turned down, and he will stick with the No. 96 he was given when he arrived.
“I ain’t going to keep pushing it,’’ Blacklock said. “At the end of the day, I’m saving money. But I hope (Otomewo) thrives in 90. I’m going to rock 96 this year. I’ll be fine. Make a new name in a new number.”
WONNUM’S NEW ROLE
D.J. Wonnum was a starter last season at defensive end in a 4-3 scheme, and led the Vikings with eight sacks. He’s now an outside linebacker in Minnesota’s new 3-4 defense and will be coming off the bench.
But Wonnum has no issues with his new role. He still figures to get a good number of snaps while rotating with Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith, the starters at outside linebacker.
“I’m very excited,’’ he said. “It’s a different scheme, which I feel like fits me perfectly, and I’m just excited to go out there and show what I can do.”
HOME CROWD FOR REED
Vikings offensive lineman Chris Reed will play Sunday in front of a home crowd in Minnesota for the first time since 2014, his senior season at Minnesota State Mankato.
“It’s very exciting,’’ said Reed, who will leave 14 tickets for friends and family members. “It’s kind of like a full-circle thing. It’s nice being back in Minnesota among familiar faces and family close by.”
Reed is from Omaha, Neb., and played in the NFL for Jacksonville, Miami, Carolina and Indianapolis before signing with the Vikings last March. He played in one previous regular-season game at U.S. Bank Stadium, starting for Carolina on Nov. 29, 2020.
Reed is primarily a guard but played some center in the preseason finale at Denver.
“Doing it in a live setting, that’s kind of important,” said Reed, who said he would be ready to play center in the regular season if needed.