EAGAN, Minnesota -- Dustin Klug showed up at Vikings training camp Tuesday, Aug. 3, wearing a Kirk Cousins No. 8 jersey and a pair of Cousins wristbands. Written on one was his catchphrase, “You Like That?”
Klug last January asked the Vikings quarterback on social media to wish him a happy 21st birthday, and he was thrilled when Cousins complied.
“That’s my QB1,’’ said Klug, who is from Beaver Dam, Wis. “I’ve been a big supporter of him.”
Nevertheless, Klug is hoping Cousins will get vaccinated.
Cousins, the starter, and Vikings backup quarterbacks Kellen Mond and Nate Stanley were placed on the COVID-19 reserve list last weekend, and have missed the last three practices. Mond tested positive and Cousins and Stanley were classified as high-risk close contacts, meaning neither has been vaccinated. Cousins and Stanley have to quarantine at least five days.
“Hopefully, (Cousins will) get vaccinated sooner or later,’’ Klug said. “If he’s not vaccinated and we’re in position to get a one seed for the playoffs, you could cost your team if you miss that one game and lose that game. Fans are going to be frustrated.”
Klug was one of about 20 Vikings fans spotted at Tuesday’s practice at the TCO Performance Center wearing a Cousins jersey, and they ranged in in age from Lenorah Thomas, 5, of Faribault to Scott Schraufnagel, 55, of North Branch. The St. Paul Pioneer Press spoke to some of them.
Damian Martinez, 15, of Inver Grove Heights said he’s a staunch supporter of Cousins’ right to not get vaccinated.
“It’s his choice,’’ Martinez said. “I support him. Freedom, I guess.’’
Rath Soeun, 23, of Mendota Heights sees both sides of the story.
“It’s a double-edge sword when it comes to all this stuff,’’ said Soeun, a nursing student at Century College in White Bear Lake, who was decked out in a Cousins color rush jersey that cost $160. “I understand the side of freedom of choice, what you put in your body, but also the business side of things. They have the right to impose those rules, too.
“There’s no perfect answer to what’s happening right now because the vaccine isn’t perfect. It takes years and years to make a perfect vaccine that works 100 percent of the time.’’
Still, Soeun is hoping Cousins will get vaccinated.
“If you want to play the game you love, yeah,’’ Soeun said. “You’re more less hurting your team (if a player is unvaccinated).’’
The Washington Post reported Tuesday that the Vikings have the lowest vaccination rate in the NFL at 70 percent in progress and 64 percent fully vaccinated. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer has been calling for all players to be vaccinated and president Mark Wilf said Tuesday he’s “very concerned” about the hesitancy some have.
With the Vikings being down three quarterbacks, Jake Browning, who has been on the practice squad the past two years, has been working with the first team. Minnesota has signed free agent Case Cookus, whose first practice was Monday, and picked up on waivers Danny Etling, whose first practice was Tuesday.
“(Cousins) had the option to the get vaccine, and he chose not to,’’ said Schraufnagel, who said he’s both held his Cousins jersey up with pride and “stomped on it” in recent years. “ “But there are consequences. … (The Vikings are) putting themselves at risk (if players aren’t vaccinated). So, it gives us a disadvantage in the NFL, and you want every advantage you can get.’’
Scott Denton, 49, of Woodbury said Cousins “has the right to make his own decision” on the vaccine. But if Cousins misses games, Denton pointed to his hefty contract. He has a salary-cap number this season of $31 million.
“I think maybe they should think about his pay,’’ Denton said. “What would they do about that?’’
For now, though, Vikings fans figure to keep wearing their Cousins jerseys. Lenorah’s father said her daughter was quite happy at Tuesday’s practice even if No. 8 wasn’t on hand.
“She loves that (jersey),’’ said Matt Thomas, 42. “She wears it all the time.’’