Vikings’ Cousins does not practice due to illness
Head coach Kevin O’Connell unsure if the quarterback will travel to Las Vegas
EAGAN, Minn. — Kevin O’Connell will take the field for the first time as an NFL head coach in Sunday’s preseason opener, but he might not have Kirk Cousins.
The Minnesota Vikings quarterback was sent home from the TCO Performance Center on Thursday and he did not take part in an afternoon walkthrough and practice. O’Connell said he does not know if Cousins will make the trip to Las Vegas for Minnesota’s exhibition opener against the Raiders.
Asked if Cousins has COVID-19, O’Connell said the Vikings were “still in the process of trying to go through all of that.’’ Cousins, who was unvaccinated last season, was on the COVID-19 reserve list for five days during training camp in 2021 as a close contact and missed a Week 17 game at Green Bay after testing positive and being put on the list.
Players are no longer required to be tested for COVID unless they have symptoms. There no longer is a COVID-19 reserve list.
“I have not gotten much of an update but I do know he was not feeling well earlier,’’ O’Connell said between the walkthrough and practice. “We have a process in place where we send him home and we’ll go through our processes internally.”
The other two quarterbacks on the roster are Kellen Mond and Sean Mannion, who went through the practice. The two, listed as co-backup quarterbacks behind Cousins when the first depth chart came out Wednesday, split first-team reps.
“I didn’t even know anything until we got to walkthrough, so I’ll probably contact (Cousins on Thursday night),’’ Mond said after the practice. “I’m not sure what exactly it is. I saw illness like everybody else but I’m not sure what that is.”
O’Connell would not say whether he will use starters against the Raiders or not, but starters do often travel to road preseason games even if they’re not scheduled to play. The Vikings leave Saturday for Las Vegas.
“I’ve kind of had a plan in my mind, as far as playing time throughout the preseason for (Cousins),’’ said O’Connell, not providing any details. “Obviously, getting on the plane and doing all of the travel stuff anyway, regardless of how he currently feels, what will matter is when it’s time to get on the plane Saturday and go. That’s something smart that we’ll be really cognizant of.”
O’Connell, 37, was hired by the Vikings in February for his first job as a head coach on any level after two seasons as the Los Angeles Rams’ offensive coordinator. While it is a preseason game, he said he has thought about what this step means.
“I’m excited about it,’’ said O’Connell, who will call plays, something he didn’t do in seven years as an NFL offensive assistant. “Regardless of the result truly mattering for where our team will finish up this year, it’s still important for me to make sure I’m going through my process, not only as a play-caller but as a head coach.”
O’Connell said it adds something to the preseason opener that the opposing head coach is Josh McDaniels, in his first season with the Raiders. McDaniels was a longtime assistant with New England, including being the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach when O’Connell was a rookie quarterback with the Patriots in 2008.
“I did think about this, Josh McDaniels being on the other sideline, my first time going out there as a head coach,’’ O’Connell said. “(He’s) one of my mentors, a guy that was one of the first people I became close with in this league as a young player, so it is neat to know that Josh will be on the other sideline and to get to shake his hand before and after the game.”
The Vikings held their final practice before the game Thursday and will have just a walkthrough Friday. During the practice, Vikings rookie Ed Ingram worked with the first team at right guard for the second straight day over veteran Jesse Davis, who is listed first on the depth chart.
Ingram, a second-round pick, is expected to make his preseason debut Sunday along with two other rookies who are battling to start: safety Lewis Cine, a first-round pick, and cornerback Andrew Booth Jr., a second-round selection.
“It’s going to be fun,’’ Ingram said. “It’s the first game. I’m just excited. I’m going to be locked in for the game.”
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