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Kevin O'Connell: Justin Jefferson 'getting closer'

"He is getting closer. He is feeling really, really good."

Justin Jefferson's return saga marches on into the holidays with head coach Kevin O'Connell offering up Wednesday the star receiver is "getting closer."

"He took major part in our walkthrough earlier today," O'Connell said in his Wednesday media availability. 

"I think we're just going to assess it and we've been doing that throughout the last couple weeks. He is getting closer. He is feeling really, really good. When that translates to him having a full performance? We'll rely on the medical team, Justin's got to make sure he communicates with the doctors how he's feeling. Then we can schematically, kind of, go from there."

Jefferson's 21-day return window is closing rapidly with decision day coming next Wednesday. After four weeks on injured reserve for a hamstring injury suffered in the team's Week 5 loss to Kansas City, the Vikings opened the receiver's return window on Nov. 8. They have 21 days from opening that window to activate Jefferson to the active roster or shut him down for the season.

Without Jefferson over the previous six weeks, the Vikings have gone 5-1, suffering their first loss in Sunday's 21-20 defeat by the Broncos.

"Until we feel he's at that place - which could come tomorrow, could come just in time for Monday night or maybe if it gets down to it it is post bye - I think we're just going to continue to be smart," continued O'Connell.

Sunday's loss hurt the Vikings' efforts to keep pace with the Lions for the NFC North crown, with Detroit sitting at 8-2 and the Vikings three games back at 6-5. The Lions and Minnesota square off twice over the final three weeks of the season.

"We have urgency to win this football game, it's a very important football game," O'Connell continued. "We're just not going to allow that to distract us from the fact that we started out with some really strong principles of making sure that Justin was at a good place and 100% healthy when he would return. We want to give him the opportunity to do that but we're not going to allow any outside circumstances, or even the circumstances of our team, to drive that decision in any way, shape or form."