Jake Browning shot to the top of the Minnesota Vikings' depth chart this weekend as the No. 1 quarterback, not for his play-calling, passing or overall leadership skills, but out of necessity.
The former University of Washington player and two-year Minnesota practice-team member was the only one available because of COVID-19.
Among the other Vikings quarterbacks, rookie Kellen Mond from Texas A&M tested positive for the virus, according to various news outlets, and starter Kirk Cousins and backup Nate Stanley were in close proximity and exposed to him. All were put in quarantine protocols.
None of them had been vaccinated.
However, Browning received the preemptive shot or shots, hence he doesn't have to isolate.
Interestingly, Browning is the second former Husky quarterback installed in recent days as the No. 1 guy at this crucial position across the NFL landscape, joining Jacob Eason, his UW successor.
Eason currently is running the Indianapolis Colts offense following a foot injury to starter Carson Wentz that might require surgery.
Neither Browning nor Eason has taken an NFL snap or even suited up on game day.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer didn't hesitate to voice his displeasure over the sudden loss of three quarterbacks, not holding back on his criticism of the country's unvaccinated. Medical experts have blamed the late-summer COVID-19 surge on the high rate of people either refusing or being delinquent in getting vaccinated.
“I am disappointed that this happened,” Zimmer said. “I’m frustrated with, not just my football players that won’t get vaccinated, I’m frustrated with everybody … It’s disappointing.”
As for Browning, the Vikings coach had this to say, "He's really smart. He's vaccinated."
It's unclear when the three Vikings quarterbacks will return to practice. Yet Zimmer indicated the situation presents Browning with a big opportunity to win the Minnesota backup job and make the active roster.
"As we move forward here, he's going to get a ton of reps," the coach said. "I don't mind saying, 'It's going to go a long way,' because we've still got a lot of camp to go. We'll see. He's out there. He's available. That's important. It's important to be available when you're playing football, a team sport."
In Saturday's practice, Browning seemed to take his coach to heart. He looked good, completing 25 of 36 passes in 11-on-11 drills, including two drops and a spike to stop the clock. He was 3 of 5 on deep passes, including a completion to Justin Jefferson over Cameron Dantzler inside the 5-yard line during the situational portion of practice.
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