Cousins returns to Minnesota Vikings quarterback room after quarantine

By Dave Campbell

EAGAN, Minn. (AP) – Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins was activated from the COVID-19 reserve list on Thursday, having completed the NFL’s required five-day quarantine for unvaccinated players deemed a high-risk close contact with an infected person.

The Vikings also activated Nate Stanley, bringing their quarterback cadre much closer to full strength after a tenuous stretch of practices in the early portion of training camp. Rookie Kellen Mond, the player who tested positive, remained on the reserve list and away from the team.

Cousins, Mond and Stanley were sidelined Saturday, leaving Jake Browning – who is vaccinated – as the only quarterback available for the open-to-the-public session that night. Danny Etling and Case Cookus were signed this week to help lighten the load on Browning in drills.

The league’s updated virus protocols for 2021 allow vaccinated players to stay on schedule and continue practicing even if they experience close contact with an infected person, as long as they test negative themselves. Unvaccinated players are subject to the stricter 2020 rules for quarantining, testing and socializing.

The Vikings, as of Tuesday, had the lowest percentage (70) of vaccinated players in the NFL, according to a person with knowledge of the data. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team-by-team figures were not being publicized. The leaguewide rate of players who’ve received at least one dose hit the 90% mark earlier this week.

Coach Mike Zimmer has bluntly expressed his frustration with the vaccine holdouts, not only in the locker room but in public, with the Delta variant fueling another nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases.

From a competitive standpoint, the scare of suddenly losing the starting quarterback to quarantine rather than injury or illness – dreading the possibility of a costlier such setback in the regular season – made Zimmer even more exasperated with Cousins and the others on the team who have opted against getting the shots.

“I’m done talking about vaccinations. I’m out of that business,” Zimmer said Wednesday. He was not scheduled to be available to the media Thursday.

Cousins has started his 10th year in the NFL, his fourth with the Vikings. His salary cap charge ($31 million) is the second highest in the league this season, behind Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson. Cousins has a fully guaranteed $35 million salary on the books for 2022, with a $45 million hit to the salary cap in the final year on his current contract. The Vikings drafted Mond in the third round.