MINNEAPOLIS - It's been a whirlwind couple of days for Nick Mullens. Three days ago, he went 6-of-9 passing for 39 yards as the Las Vegas Raiders beat the Miami Dolphins 15-13 in preseason play.
Monday, he got a phone call. He was heading to the Minnesota Vikings in a trade, and instead of competing for the back-up job behind Derek Carr, his newest teammates in the quarterback room would be Kirk Cousins, Kellen Mond and Sean Mannion.
Those numbers will likely change as after the Vikings end the preseason at the Denver Broncos Saturday night, the roster gets cut from 80 to the final 53 before Week 1 against the Green Bay Packers. Two weeks ago, Mullens was 7-of-9 passing for 94 yards and a touchdown against the Vikings. He knows the life of a back-up quarterback. He's started 17 games as he enters his sixth NFL season.
"I’ve just got to stay focused. I’m here to learn, I’m here to produce, here to focus and just gotta keep getting better every day. Take one day at a time and basically just do what I’m told and take advantage of my opportunities when I get them," Mullens said after Tuesday’s practice at TCO Performance Center.
Mullens flew to the Twin Cities Monday night, got his physical done Tuesday morning and was on the field in uniform for the afternoon practice. After sending a 2024 seventh-round pick to the Raiders for Mullens, it appears the No. 2 quarterback job behind Cousins is Mullens’ to lose.
Mullens said he met Cousins this offseason at a Christian conference for NFL players. Little did Mullens know after facing the Vikings earlier this month, it was an early interview.
"You could say that for a lot of different games. Any time you’re out there on the field, you’re putting your best on tape basically. I’ve kept that mindset really through my five years in this league," Mullens said. "Any time you’re playing, any time you’re in front of people watching, it’s an interview. You’ve just got to take advantage of it when the opportunities come."
Mullens went through individual work with the quarterbacks and receivers on Tuesday, then stood and watched during team situations as he gets to learn the playbook. He spent his first three seasons with the San Francisco 49ers and in 20 career games, he’s completed 64.5 percent of his passes for 4,861 yards, 26 touchdowns and 22 interceptions.
The Vikings decided it was time to make a move after losing 17-7 to the 49ers in preseason play on Saturday. Mannion was 10-of-15 for 65 yards, and Mond was 10-of-20 for 82 yards, but threw two interceptions. Neither has created separation on the competition to be the back-up to Cousins.
Vikings offensive coordinator Wes Phillips knows Mullens from being in the same division. Phillips was with the L.A. Rams when Mullens played for the 49ers, where he got 16 of his 17 starts.
"Particularly when he was starting those games, always thought he was a great competitor. He had some good production in the games that he played in this league," Phillips said. "Like all quarterbacks, he had some rough moments but he also really played well in some of those games. Really excited to have him."
The Vikings don’t know yet how much Mullens will play in the preseason finale on Saturday.
VIKINGS TO SCRIMMAGE THURSDAY, CUT ROSTER AFTER PRESEASON FINALE
The Vikings will not practice Wednesday before holding a scrimmage on Thursday. That’s where, like at the joint practices, the starting offense and defense will get its plays and situations in for the week. The Vikings sat 27 players against the 49ers, and there are no indications any first-team players will play in the preseason finale.
The Vikings are at Denver Saturday night, then have to cut the roster to 53. The reality is hitting the team that training camp is coming to a close.
"This week is a bittersweet feeling where it’s coming to an end, training camp is winding down, no more fans in the stands. Getting ready to cut down the roster from 80 to 53 going into the last week, but the sweet feeling of it all is two weeks away from game day, Week 1," special teams coordinator Matt Daniels said. "See how it all plays out after Saturday."