After making another masterful play on special teams, Minnesota Vikings rookie cornerback NaJee Thompson was forced to leave the team's preseason game against the Tennessee Titans on Saturday with what was described as "concussion-like symptoms," according to multiple reports.
Thompson is expected to be placed in concussion protocol this week, so he could be unavailable to play in Minnesota's preseason finale next Saturday against the Arizona Cardinals.
Luckily for the undrafted rookie, there's a good chance that he's already earned a spot on the Vikings' final 2023 roster, thanks in part to his performances on special teams during the last two weeks.
Thompson had an impressive tackle in punt coverage in Minnesota's preseason opener against the Seattle Seahawks, and he made another great tackle while in punt coverage during Saturday's loss to the Titans.
As an undrafted rookie, Thompson faced an uphill battle ever since he joined the Vikings earlier this year. He didn't get any defensive snaps in Minnesota's first preseason game in Seattle, so the only chance he's had to prove his value this preseason has been on special teams.
So far, it seems like Thompson has done enough in his limited opportunities this summer to at least force the Vikings to seriously consider keeping him on their roster for the 2023 regular season.
If Minnesota does end up giving him a spot on this year's final 53-man roster, he'll become the third undrafted rookie to earn a final roster spot with the Vikings since Kevin O'Connell took over as the team's head coach in 2022. Outside linebacker Luiji Vilain and punter Ryan Wright were the two undrafted rookies to make Minnesota's final roster last season.
Before signing with the Vikings earlier this year, Thompson spent his college career at Georgia Southern, the same school that also produced former Minnesota running back Jerick McKinnon.
While at Georgia Southern, Thompson spent time as both a wide receiver and a defensive back, but most of his success, unsurprisingly, came during his snaps on special teams.
Those skills on special teams have clearly carried over into the beginning of his NFL career and they will likely be the biggest reason why he earns a spot on the Vikings' final 2023 roster if they choose to keep him around after the preseason.