MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - Kirk Cousins returned to Minnesota Vikings training camp practice at TCO Performance Center on Thursday, activated from the NFL’s reserve/COVID-19 list after five days in quarantine and six negative tests.
Cousins and Nate Stanley both missed five days, considered high risk close contacts after Kellen Mond reportedly tested positive for COVID-19. Cousins, Mond and Stanley missed the team’s Saturday night practice in front of fans at TCO Stadium, and Cousins is hoping it’s the last time he has to talk about the virus.
He blamed having to be quarantined on the quarterbacks being too close together in too small of a meeting room.
"It was disappointing to miss practice. In my entire college and pro career, I have not missed four practices. So to miss four practices in one week and not have COVID was frustrating, disappointing. But I worked on my own, did all the virtual meetings, was able to do the best I could with the situation we had," Cousins told reporters before practice. "I do believe the protocols work and that’s why I believe I didn’t have COVID after being in a meeting room like that, because the mask and the social distancing works."
When asked if it would be easier to get vaccinated and being able to avoid the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols, Cousins declined to go into detail on his vaccination status.
"The vaccination decision is a very private health matter for me, and I’m going to keep it as such. I do believe that as a leader of the team, it’s very important to follow the protocols to avoid this close contact. That is what it’s going to come down to is did you have a close contact? So I’m going to be vigilant about avoiding a close contact," Cousins said.
Cousins said he’s even considered putting Plexiglas around his space in meeting rooms, and talked with Mike Zimmer about arranging different places to game plan. That includes in the team’s indoor practice field, or even outside under a goal post in January.
"If that’s what it takes to get to the playoffs and be in playoff games and win playoff games, then that’s where we’re going to meet. We’re going to avoid this close contact thing with everything we possibly can do," Cousins said. "I’m going to do whatever it takes."
Earlier this week, Zimmer went public in urging his players to get a COVID-19 vaccine to both protect themselves, and make life easier for the Vikings when the season starts. Vikings’ owner Mark Wilf also said he’s "very concerned" about the team having one of the lowest player vaccination rates in the NFL.
According to a Washington Post report, the Vikings have 70 percent of players going through the vaccine process, and 64.5 percent are fully vaccinated. On a 90-player roster, that leaves as many as 27 players who are not vaccinated.
Back during mandatory minicamp in June, Harrison Smith, Adam Thielen and Sheldon Richardson all said at that time they were not vaccinated. Cousins, as he did Thursday, declined to provide medical information.
The long-term goal is to make sure what happened this week doesn’t happen during the regular season. The Vikings don’t want COVID-19 to be a reason a key player like Cousins is out for a game, and the last thing they want is an outbreak that causes them to forget a game and take a loss.
"I want to follow the protocol so I can play on Sunday, and that’s where my focus is. As long as I can not test positive and not have a close contact, I’ll be there for every game," Cousins said. "I’m very aware of what the protocols are, what the consequences are. The protocols work, masks work, social distancing works. The 2020 season proved that. I’m at peace with where I’m at and I’ll follow the protocols vigilantly."
OBSERVATIONS FROM THURSDAY’S PRACTICE
After two straight days with pads on, the Vikings practiced without pads on Thursday at TCO Performance Center. Here are a few tidbits from the afternoon in Eagan.
- Veterans Harrison Smith, Adam Thielen and Patrick Peterson did not practice Thursday, standing and watching with caps on. Dakota Dozier also didn’t practice. None appear to be injured, so it seems it was a "vets day." Anthony Barr returned after sitting out Wednesday.
- First round pick Christian Darrisaw practiced for the third straight day and is progressing from groin surgery. Oli Udoh continues to see consistent reps with the first team offensive line.
- It was a tough day for Justin Jefferson. Even though he made a few circus catches, Jefferson had at least three drops and fumbled after being stripped during a team drill.
- Cam Dantzler was the defensive standout Thursday, with two interceptions. The first came on a deep ball from Kirk Cousins to KJ Osborn, where Osborn slipped and fell on the play and Dantzler made a leaping pick. The second came on a Jefferson bobble that Dantzler got before it hit the ground.
The Vikings practice Friday afternoon before hosting a scrimmage for fans on Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium. It’ll be the first time fans can get inside the stadium since before the COVID-19 pandemic.