The Vikings will be down to just one quarterback — third-year player Jake Browning — for their practice on Saturday night after rookie Kellen Mond tested positive for COVID-19. Kirk Cousins is a high-risk close contact and Nate Stanley will be out as well, with the team conducting further contact tracing. It's unclear how long this could linger, but the Vikings could look to bring in another quarterback next week if their players remain out.
At least for one night, Browning will get all of the reps at QB.
“It’s why people should get vaccinated," Mike Zimmer said. “Something like this happens a day before a game that has a chance to get you to the playoffs or something like that … this Delta variant is rough. You can see the cases going up every single day now. That’s why, for the sake of everybody’s health, I think it’s important. But some people don’t understand, I guess."
Cousins and other unvaccinated close contacts will have to isolate for five days, keeping them out of several practices next week. Several other key Vikings players (Harrison Smith, Adam Thielen, and Sheldon Richardson) were unvaccinated as of minicamp in mid-June.
It's obviously better for this to happen now than during the season, but Zimmer isn't sure if it'll be a wake-up call for the team. "Some guys are pretty staunch," he said.
“You know, quite honestly, after everything we went through last year, I’m not surprised one bit. I am disappointed that this happened. I’m frustrated, not just with my football players who didn’t get vaccinated, but I’m frustrated with everybody [who didn’t]. We’ll just do the best we can. It’s just disappointing."
Zimmer said the Vikings never considered cancelling practice tonight. Losing quarterbacks will hurt the wide receivers who need reps and the overall productivity of the practice, but the Vikings will do their best to make it work.
"All these other guys have to get work, so we’re trying to get installs in, we’re still trying to get work done, and these fans are all coming out here tonight, too," Zimmer said. "It’s kind of a next man up deal."
While the team can't share if Mond, Cousins, or Stanley are not vaccinated, we know that Browning is. This will be a big opportunity for the former UDFA from Washington to show that he can operate the first-team offense and state his case for the backup QB job.
Browning and Mond are the main candidates for that position, and Browning has had a decent start to camp despite really struggling on deep passes.
"Like I said earlier, Jake's really smart," Zimmer said. "He's vaccinated, that helps to be the backup. So as we move forward here, he's gonna get a ton of reps tonight. I don't about saying 'it's going to go a long way' (towards winning the job) because we've still a lot of camp to go. But 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."
Zimmer was clearly frustrated during his press conference, where the majority of the questions were about this strange situation. There's a reason why the NFL and its teams are pushing so hard for players to get vaccinated, even though they can't mandate it.
We will presumably find out more in the coming days about if any of these QBs will go on the Reserve/COVID list or when they'll be able to return to practice.
“They’ll have to go virtual until they’re admitted back in the building," Zimmer said. "There’s the high risk close contact and then there’s the close contact. So with that there’s different protocols that they have to follow."
The Vikings will have up to 7,000 paying fans in attendance for the night practice at TCO Performance Center.
Thanks for reading. Make sure to bookmark this site and check back daily for the latest Vikings news and analysis all season long. Also, follow me on Twitter and feel free to ask me any questions on there.