EAGAN, Minn. (FOX 9) - The Minnesota Vikings held their annual training camp night practice on Saturday in front of fans at TCO Stadium, and were without multiple players due to COVID-19 protocols.
When the Vikings took the field on a perfect night for football, Kirk Cousins, Kellen Mond and Nate Stanley were not in attendance. According to an NFL Network report, Mond has tested positive for COVID-19, and Cousins and Stanley are not available as they're considered "high risk close contacts."
A clearly very agitated Mike Zimmer spoke with reporters before Saturday night's practice at TCO Stadium about the situation.
"Quite honestly, going through everything we went through last year, I’m not surprised one bit. I am disappointed that this happened. I’m frustrated with, not just my football players that won’t get vaccinated. I’m frustrated with everybody, so we’ll just do the best we can. It’s disappointing," Zimmer said.
The Vikings are less than a week into training camp, and they're dealing with COVID-19 issues within the team.
Zimmer added, "It’s why I think people should get vaccinated. This Delta variant is rough. You can see the cases going up every single day now, and it’s why for the sake of everybody’s health, it’s important. But some people don’t understand I guess."
Jake Browning, who is vaccinated, is the only quarterback available for practice. Zimmer said the other quarterbacks won't be back until they are cleared to return to TCO Performance Center. The Vikings' have their first practice in full pads on Monday.
"He’s vaccinated, that helps to be the back-up. He’s going to get a ton or reps tonight. He’s out there, he’s available, that’s important. It’s important to be available when you’re playing football, a team sport," Zimmer said.
Practice went on as scheduled, and despite having only one quarterback, Zimmer said there were no plans to alter or cancel the practice in TCO Stadium. Vikings officials say 4,285 fans attended Saturday night's workout. Browning did his part, wowing fans with long completions to Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson and K.J. Osborn.
After pumping in crown noise for last year's night practice, a TCO Stadium full of Vikings fans Saturday was a welcomed sight for players.
"It feels more like a game because they’re closer and everything is just more keying in. You get to hear them when you make a play, you hear the fans celebrate," defensive end Danielle Hunter said. I know last year whenever a play was made, they played it through the speakers and that really didn’t feel the same. It’s really exciting to have the fans back, and something that we’re looking forward to this year in the stadium."
Vaccinations have been an issue for the Vikings, like many NFL teams, as franchises work to reach the threshold for looser restrictions.
Earlier this month, the NFL said teams may be forced to forfeit games if a COVID-19 outbreak prevented them from playing. This week, the team also announced offensive line coach Rick Dennison would shift to an advisory role due to a refusal to get vaccinated. Under NFL rules, top coaches and assistants must be vaccinated.
Despite Saturday's developments with Mond, Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter says they won't let a players vaccination status become a rift in the locker room.
"We’ve just got to follow the rules on what we need to do whether we’re vaxed or unvaxed. You’ve got to do your part, my part is just do my job on the field. Their part is to do whatever they can to get back on the field," Hunter said. "This can definitely happen to any team. It’s happening to us right now, it just gives us a chance to prepare for anything that might happen."
In addition to Cousins, Mond and Stanley, Bisi Johnson and Christian Darrisaw did not practice Saturday night. Johnson is out for the season after tearing his ACL in Friday's practice. Darrisaw is easing his way back from surgery that kept him out of a portion of off-season workouts. Third round pick Wyatt Davis also did not practice Saturday night.
VIKINGS HONOR KOREY STRINGER AT NIGHT PRACTICE
Before the Vikings started Saturday night’s practice at TCO Stadium, the team took a moment to honor legendary offensive lineman and Ring of Honor member Korey Stringer.
Stringer died on Aug. 1, 2001, after collapsing during a training camp practice in Mankato due to heat exhaustion. The Vikings did a video tribute to Stringer, held a moment of silence before starting practice and pained his Vikings’ jersey No. 77 on the field at the stadium. He played from 1995-2000 with Minnesota.
The Vikings, in conjunction with the NFL Foundation and Korey Stringer Institute, have created the Korey and Kelci Stringer Athletic Training Scholarship with a $50,000 endowment. The scholarship benefits training students with the National Athletic Training Association Research and Education Foundation. Applications for the initial 2022 scholarship will be accepted starting this fall.