MINNEAPOLIS - The Minnesota Vikings are hosting the San Francisco 49ers for joint practices this week at TCO Performance Center, and Kirk Cousins was back on the field five days after testing positive for COVID-19.
Cousins came to the facility last Thursday and was sent home before walk-through, saying he "was feeling a little lousy" and got tested. He spent five days at home, including while the Vikings played their first preseason game at the Las Vegas Raiders, and spoke with reporters before Wednesday’s practice.
If there was a time to be out, this was it. Cousins was unlikely to play more than one series, if at all, against the Raiders and didn’t miss a ton of time between workouts Thursday and Friday.
‘We probably picked a pretty good five’
"I was commenting to my wife that if I had to miss five days and you were to be strategic about which five, we probably picked a pretty good five," Cousins said. "So it worked out pretty well from that standpoint."
Cousins missed last year’s training camp night practice at TCO Performance Center after being a close contact to Kellen Mond, and missed Week 17 at Green Bay after testing positive the first time for COVID-19. They lost that game to the Packers, and were eliminated the Vikings from the playoffs.
The important piece for Cousins is that he was cleared to join the team for this week’s joint practices, and felt good on Wednesday.
Cousins said he'll take value in every rep he gets against the 49ers in joint practices.
"There’s always a little bit more juice for obvious reasons. I just think when you can go against a different scheme, players you’re less familiar with, there just is a lot of familiarity after OTAs and training camp. It’s 15 weeks together of practice before you actually get to your first game, just a lot of familiarity by the end," Cousins said. "You want to go against something different, and that’s where I think it’s really valuable to have these practices."
"Every rep is important, he knows that. But to be able to get him back for this practice, for these two practices with the 49ers where we’re playing a challenging front, a different scheme. To see some different looks is going to be big for us," offensive coordinator Wes Phillips said.
‘You f*****g like that?!’
As for the offensive highlights Wednesday, Kirk Cousins hit Adam Thielen on a throw over the middle and after the play, yelled at his teammates, "You like that?! You (expletive) like that?"
- Cousins also completed several throws to Justin Jefferson, and Dalvin Cook out of the backfield. Cousins was intercepted once on a throw towards the sideline by George Odom.
- Sean Mannion hit Ihmir Smith-Marsette for a long completion down the sideline, then hit Albert Wilson for a touchdown in the back corner of the end zone during a team session.
- Greg Joseph finished 6-of-8 on field goals, ending the day with a successful kick from 50 yards out.
- After making his preseason debut against the Raiders, rookie Ed Ingram took every snap with the first team offensive line at right guard on Wednesday. It appears he could be making a push to be the Week 1 starter, potentially ahead of Jesse Davis.
Kellen Mond shows growth in 2022 preseason debut
One of the main storylines out of the first preseason game was the competition for the No. 2 quarterback job heating up. After a slow start, Kellen Mond finished 9-of-14 for 119 yards, two touchdowns to Albert Wilson and a 130.7 rating.
He gained confidence after hitting Dan Chisena for a 22-yard gain on a 4th-and-5 play. That’s after scrambling, not seeing Trishton Jackson and Ihmir-Smith Marsette open in the end zone and throwing the ball away.
"The thing that I liked about Kellen is there was some resiliency there. There was a couple plays he’d probably like to have back or would’ve liked to let go and thrown into a window. He just kept playing, there was no flinch, no blink, he just kept playing," Phillips said. "He’s definitely improved. Kellen has come a long way from when we first got here in the spring."
The competition between Mond and Mannion for that No. 2 spot is ongoing, and will get further evaluation after Saturday’s second preseason game. So what does Phillips look for in a back-up quarterback?
"You’re looking for a guy who’s going to be great in the room, who is going to be there for the starter as far as game preparation, and then a guy who is able to play with limited reps," Phillips said. "You’ve got to be a guy that is preparing every week as if you’re the starter, and then be ready at any point to step in and execute the offense."
The Vikings and 49ers practice again on Thursday at TCO Performance Center ahead of Saturday’s preseason game at U.S. Bank Stadium, which you can watch on FOX 9.