New York Jets’ Tyler Conklin expects playing Vikings will be ‘bittersweet’
Tight end spent first 3 seasons with Minnesota before signing with Jets this past offseason.
After the New York Jets defeated the Chicago Bears 31-10 last Sunday, an invitation was waiting for Tyler Conklin.
Conklin, a Jets tight end, heard from Minnesota Vikings tackle Brian O’Neill, his teammate in Minnesota from 2018-21. Plans were put in place for when Conklin returns to U.S. Bank Stadium to face the Vikings on Sunday.
“Brian texted me and said, ‘Good game, and let’s do a jersey swap afterward,’ ‘ Conklin said Tuesday.
Conklin still keeps up with several Vikings players, including tight end Irv Smith Jr., linebacker Eric Kendricks and center Garrett Bradbury. He enjoyed his four seasons in Minnesota, and figures it will be emotional coming back.
“It’s going to be weird, but I’m super excited about it,” he said. “It’s definitely a game that I had marked on my calendar. … I’ve got a lot of love for everybody in Minnesota, so it will always have a special place in my heart. It’ll definitely be bittersweet.”
Conklin joined the Vikings in 2018 as a fifth-round pick out of Central Michigan and didn’t play much in his first two seasons as a third-string tight end. He got more playing time in 2020 when starter Kyle Rudolph and backup Smith were injured, and became the starter in 2021 when Rudolph was released in a salary-related move and Smith missed the season with a knee injury.
Conklin broke loose with 61 catches for 593 yards, and it landed him a three-year, $20.25 million free-agent contract with the Jets. “It took a little time for me to get my opportunity, but when it came, it all worked out,” he said.
Conklin moved immediately into the Jets’ starting lineup and has 38 catches for 381 yards and three touchdowns. After going 4-13 in 2021, New York is 7-4 and in playoff contention.
“Everything here has been good,” Conklin said. “The offense and the scheme is something I really enjoy playing in. It’s been awesome to be part of the turnaround.”
Kendricks said during the game on Sunday that Conklin will “be our foe, our enemy.” Otherwise, he’s looking forward to seeing him.
“He’s a good friend of mine,” Kendricks said. “I keep up with him a little bit, especially on social media. His fiancée (Scottie Falk) and my wife (Ally) are pretty good friends.”
After last season, Kendricks and Conklin were part of a group of players who went to Cabo on a vacation along with wives and girlfriends. Others on the trip included O’Neill, Bradbury and offensive lineman Mason Cole, who is now with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Conklin was a popular player with the Vikings. Cornerback Patrick Peterson got to know him well after he signed with Minnesota last year.
“I used to call him Aquaman because he looked like the movie star (from) ‘Aquaman,’ ” said Peterson, referring to the long hair that makes him resemble actor Jason Momoa. “He was a great teammate, a hard worker, a guy that I respected when he was here in our locker room. I’m looking forward to seeing him on the opposite sideline to catch up after the game.”
The Jets won’t be in the Twin Cities for long, but Conklin hopes to visit a favorite sushi restaurant. And he expects to run into a lot of familiar faces Sunday.
“My fiancée and I still talk about how we miss Minnesota,” he said. “We loved our time there. We bought our first house there (in Eagan). We loved the stadium and the fans. But, with the opportunity to take my career to the next level, we’re loving New York-New Jersey so far. Everything is working out how it’s supposed to.”
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