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Irv Smith Jr. “right on schedule” in return from knee injury

Chris Simms explains to Mike Florio why he believes Evan Neal is the No. 1 OL in the 2022 NFL Draft, evaluates if there are any concerns about Tyler Linderbaum’s smaller size and more.

The Vikings planned for Irv Smith Jr. to be their top tight end during the 2021 season, but a knee injury in August forced the team to come up with a new approach at the position.

Smith had to have surgery to repair a torn meniscus and wound up missing the entire season. Tyler Conklin took over as the No. 1 tight end, but he moved on to the Jets as a free agent last month and that puts Smith back in the position as the clear top guy at the position group.

On Tuesday, head coach Kevin O’Connell said, via Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press, that Smith is “right on schedule” and that the team will take it slow in order to ensure that remains the case.

“Get him right back to where he was, if not better, stronger,” O’Connell said.

Smith said he’s optimistic he’ll be 100 percent when it is time to get back on the field and that would finally allow the Vikings to see last year’s plans in action.