Vikings receiver K.J. Osborn playing with a huge chip on his shoulder
Osborn has went from playing exclusively on special teams in 2020, to putting up 50 catches for 655 yards in 2021, then 60 catches for 650 yards in 2022.
EAGAN, Minn. -- K.J. Osborn has been in the NFL long enough to understand that pretty much everyone is expendable. There’s a reason the average length of an NFL career is about 3½ years. There are only a handful of players on each team who are truly irreplaceable.
That’s a reality Osborn had to confront this offseason when the Minnesota Vikings selected Jordan Addison in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. Though general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell have both gone out of their way to say that pick wasn’t an indictment on Osborn, actions speak louder than words when it comes to these types of decisions.
That’s why Osborn is playing with such a huge chip on his shoulder this season. It’s not necessarily because the Vikings might have very well drafted his replacement down the road. It’s more so that he wants to prove to himself that he deserves to have staying power at the highest level.
“It’s about respect, man,” Osborn said. “I want to earn my respect. It’s not about the draft. It’s not about anything like that.”
Spoken like someone who grew up cheering for former NBA (and Timberwolves) star Kevin Garnett as a kid.
“That mentality that he played with on the court,” Osborn said. “I try to have that similar mindset. Just get in that zone when I get on the field. I think playing with that edge is always good.”
It has worked out for him so far. After being selected in the fifth round of the 2020 NFL Draft, and getting written off by most before he even got to training camp as a rookie, Osborn has managed to turn himself into an impact player with his work ethic day in and day out.
He’s always among the last players on the practice field at TCO Performance Center trying to improve his game. That has helped him go from playing exclusively on special teams in 2020, to putting up 50 catches for 655 yards in 2021, then 60 catches for 650 yards in 2022.
“I want to prove myself right,” he said. “I don’t care about haters. My standard for myself is higher than any fan or any coach in this building. I’ve always got a huge chip on my shoulder.”
As much as he admittedly is playing with that edge this season, Osborn is also trying to balance that with the fact that he’s starting to emerge as a leader for some of the younger players on the team. Now that former star receiver Adam Thielen is no longer in the picture, for example, Osborn is suddenly among the older players in the position room at the age of 25.
“I feel like the veteran, which is crazy,” he said. “I think I’m a natural leader, so it’s something I’ve embraced.”
That leadership has been needed even more in organized team activities with young star receiver Justin Jefferson not yet back in Minnesota for the voluntary workouts. That means Osborn is currently No. 1 on the depth chart with mandatory minicamp coming up in a few weeks. He’s not taking that for granted as he continues to prove himself as someone the Vikings should consider keeping around long term.
“Something I always hear J.J. (Jefferson) say is, ‘The money is going to come,’ ” Osborn said while acknowledging that he’s due for a new contract after this season. “If I play at the standard that I hold myself to, I think everybody will be a fan of K.J. Osborn and be OK with what I do on the field.”
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