EAGAN, Minn. — As the Minnesota Vikings began their second week of training camp down three of four quarterbacks due to a COVID-19 interruption, coach Mike Zimmer doubled down on his frustrations aimed at unvaccinated players and the likelihood that the situation his team currently faces could become a reality during the regular season.
“I just feel like we’re going to have guys miss games,” Zimmer said. “There are so many cases going on right now. We’re going to have guys miss some games and we have to be prepared for it.”
The Vikings placed quarterbacks Kirk Cousins, Kellen Mond and Nate Stanley on the COVID-19 reserve list on Sunday one day after Jake Browning was the only QB available for Minnesota’s Saturday evening practice. Minnesota rookie receiver Myron Mitchell was also placed onto the COVID-19 reserve list on Monday.
Earlier Saturday, Mond returned a positive test for COVID-19. As a result, Cousins and Stanley, who are deemed high-risk close contacts because they are unvaccinated, according to a league source, have to isolate for five days before they’re eligible to come off the reserve list and return to practice.
Zimmer didn’t mask his frustrations at his players and “everybody” who has not received the COVID-19 vaccine. “Going through all the things you had to do last year with masks, protocol, traveling, can’t leave for a day, can’t go out and see your family and all the things — can’t go out to dinner on the road, have to wear masks on the plane, all that stuff. It was just difficult,” Zimmer said. “I just don’t understand. I just don’t understand, I think we could put this thing to bed if we all do this. But it is what it is.”
The Vikings coach said he spoke again with his team regarding his stance on vaccinations and the negative consequences of being unvaccinated following Saturday’s disruption.
“I talked to the team, and like I said before, there are quite a few guys that are just against it,” Zimmer said. “I’m not going to be able to change their mind, so, it’s like half the country, I guess.”
Zimmer said the Vikings are looking into a plan where they would keep one quarterback quarantined away from the rest of the position room during the season in the event another COVID-19 interruption arises during a game week. That, however, would depend on how many quarterbacks the Vikings have vaccinated. Browning is currently the only one.
The reality that the situation the Vikings are currently dealing with could happen again during a game week had Zimmer ponder the question: How would he react if the Vikings lost a game because their starting quarterback or a star player was unavailable due to COVID-19 protocols?
“Probably won’t be happy we lost the game, first, and I probably won’t be happy we could’ve prevented this,” the Vikings coach said. “Like I said, these guys, some of them just won’t do it. I shouldn’t say it, but some of the things they read is just, whew, out there.”
“It’s their beliefs, so. I don’t know if it’s misinformation. It’s their belief, so whatever they’ve heard or read or been told. Not from — maybe they don’t believe what (NFL chief medical officer) Dr. (Allen) Sills and the NFL is telling them either, so.”
The Vikings signed quarterback Case Cookus on Monday following a workout and he later joined Browning at practice. Minnesota also claimed QB Danny Etling off waivers.
Browning, who spent the last two years on Minnesota’s practice squad after a four-year career as a starter at Washington (his 39 wins are the most by any quarterback in Pac-12 history), furthered his chances in the race to become the Vikings’ No. 2 quarterback with a strong performance during the Vikings’ fourth practice. Zimmer said Browning told him not to cut any reps in spite of being the only quarterback available on Saturday evening.
“I think someone in my situation, as an undrafted guy that’s been on the practice squad, those reps are really valuable,” Browning said. “I didn’t want anyone to think that I didn’t want to take every single one of those reps and I didn’t want to be in a situation where they were cutting practice and taking valuable reps away from other guys but also myself. I just thought with the situation the way that it is, I want to get as many reps out of it as I can. When you’re a back-up quarterback, those reps are really valuable so I wanted to take every single one.”