T.J. Hockenson has explained his absence, and the reason might surprise you.
An ear infection has affected Hockenson's equilibrium, forcing him to sit out for most of Minnesota's 2023 training camp, the tight end said Monday.
"I want to be out there with the boys, obviously," Hockenson said, via ESPN. "My favorite thing is playing football with the guys in the locker room and having a great time with them. So it stinks, but on the same hand I've got to get ready for September. And that's what I'm looking forward to."
Hockenson is entering the final year of the rookie contract signed with the Lions, who selected him with the eighth-overall pick of the 2019 NFL Draft. Detroit picked up the fifth-year option on Hockenson's contract roughly six months before trading him to Minnesota, guaranteeing he'd be under team control entering 2023, and making the upcoming season a crucial one for Hockenson's future.
Because of the ear infection, Hockenson's contract year isn't off to the best start. When he does return, he'll take over the top spot on the depth chart ahead of offseason signing Josh Oliver and 2022 signing Johnny Mundt.
Hockenson is clearly the best option at the position, and thanks to his move to Minnesota, he posted his best season of his career statistically, setting single-season highs in receptions (86), yards (914) and tying his personal best for touchdowns (six). If he's able to surpass those numbers in 2023, Minnesota will have plenty of reason to sign him to a long-term deal.
First, though, Hockenson needs to get back on the field. We'll see exactly when that time arrives.