MINNEAPOLIS - The Minnesota Vikings and Atlanta Falcons are in vastly different situations as the two teams prepare to meet Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
While the Vikings practiced on Thursday at TCO Performance Center, the Falcons were sent home from Flowery Branch after at least one team staff member tested positive for COVID-19. That comes after a defensive tackle was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Wednesday. Marlon Davidson either had a positive test, or came in close contact with a carrier.
Atlanta worked remotely on Thursday, and at this point the game is still on as scheduled. At this point for the Vikings, it’s business as usual.
“It doesn’t affect us at all right now, we’ll see what happens. But for us it’s just continue to prepare for the game just like we would any other week. We’ll figure it out as we go. This season, really any season, you just prepare, do what you can, control what you can control and you let everything else kind of play itself out,” wide receiver Adam Thielen said.
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Having scares with COVID-19 is nothing new for the Vikings. Just two weeks ago, players and team staff had to evacuate TCO Performance Center days after hosting the Tennessee Titans, who experienced a COVID-19 outbreak after being in Minneapolis.
The Vikings tested negative for the virus all week before heading to Houston. Then, the morning before the game, one player had a false positive test and three others had inconclusive results. All four had to be re-tested multiple times before being cleared to play against the Texans, Minnesota’s lone win so far this season.
“We feel for those guys because we were in that situation. Our safety and their safety comes first, so they have to take the proper precautions, which is what they’re doing. We’ve been in that situation before, and we just hope for the best for them, make sure that they’re healthy before they play us and they take the right precautions and the right steps to ensure their safety,” special teams coach Marwan Maalouf said.
It’s the new normal in the NFL, and has been since the season started. Daily rapid testing, temperature screening, constant sanitizing and maintaining social distancing in meetings, being in the facility during the day and even on the practice field.
Offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak said he wasn’t aware of the situation in Atlanta until he got on the practice field Thursday morning. The NFL has had to move multiple games this season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Vikings are hoping they’re not next in line.
“I think we all understand that our routines and our schedules could be interrupted throughout the course of this year. It’s just part of life, so you kind of deal with it,” Kubiak said. “When you hear about something, the first thing you think about is everybody OK? It’s just kind of part of the day and you pray everybody stays healthy.”
On top of COVID-19 uncertainty, the Falcons fired coach Dan Quinn and GM Thomas Dimitroff were both fired after the team’s 0-5 start. The Viknigs are preparing as if not only will they play Sunday, but they'll get a great test from the Falcons.
“We’re going to get Atlanta’s best effort, there’s no doubt about that. Their players are not going to say woe-is-me and feel sorry about themselves. They’re going to try to prove that they’re still a good football team and they’re going to rally around one another,” Co-defensive coordinator Andre Patterson said. We’re going to get Atlanta’s best effort on Sunday and that’s just the way it happens in this league.”