T.J. Hockenson was back on the Minnesota Vikings' practice field Thursday, having seemingly put a summer's worth of injuries and illness behind him.
Thursday's sudden infusion into his bank account surely helped the healing process.
Hockenson signed a four-year contract extension that will pay him at least $66 million and up to $68.5 million, sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter, in a deal that resets the tight end market.
A source told Schefter that the average annual value of the deal is $17.125 million and that Hockenson will make $42.5 million guaranteed -- both the highest for a tight end in NFL history.
"I'm excited to actually play football," Hockenson said, "and go out there and have to not worry about anything else and move forward from everything and go win some games.
That's really what we're here for." The deal ends an unusual summer during which Hockenson sat out almost all of the Vikings' contact drills,
participating only in early-practice stretching and individual periods. He first attributed those limitations to an ear infection that affected his equilibrium.
When that condition cleared up, Hockenson reported lower back stiffness to Vikings medical officials.
Hockenson spoke multiple times with reporters over that period but was vague about whether he was protecting himself or otherwise "holding in" while in the final year of his original rookie contract.
The two-time Pro Bowler said Thursday that he is "feeling better" and emphasized that his goal was always to be ready for the Vikings' regular-season opener Sept. 10 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
In expressing his relief that a deal was in place, Vikings general manager Kwesi-Adofo-Mensah acknowledged the complexity of the situation but said he did not think there was
"ever any sense of a quid pro quo or anything like that."