Vikings’ trip abroad begins in the picturesque English countryside
The team is staying in a 161-room hotel in 200 acres of countryside
LONDON — Despite the English rain, the spirit of the Minnesota Vikings is undampened.
Dalvin Cook seems to be ready to play Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints. The star running back suffered a dislocated shoulder late in the third quarter of last Sunday’s 28-24 win over Detroit.
“He truly will be a game-time decision, just with how he feels,” Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell said. “He’s one of our most important players, obviously, but I want him to feel good about playing. I think he’s trending that way, but he will be a game-time decision.”
Outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith was limited in practice Friday and is listed as questionable after missing practices Wednesday and Thursday. Cornerback Andrew Booth is doubtful (quad).
The team is staying in Ware, 20 miles directly north of Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. It is a plush, Jacobean-style, 161-room hotel set in 200 acres of the Hertfordshire countryside. Originally built as a family home in 1896, it served as a girls convent school before being transformed into its current guise in 1996.
Boasting a golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus, a grass practice field was added in May 2020 with visits from NFL teams in mind. The Vikings are the first franchise to stay here, and as Drake’s Energy boomed out over loudspeakers during afternoon practice, the heavens began to open.
Despite the rain, quarterback Kirk Cousins was taken with the place.
“I think it was the most scenic football practice I’ve ever had in my life, looking out over the rolling hills,” he said. “Really fun place to have a football practice and a fun place to stay. This is an incredible property. It’s really convenient to have your room and your meetings and your meals and your practice and your locker room all within walking distance of each other. I’m really enjoying it.”
The team will head to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for a walkthrough practice at 2 p.m. London time on Saturday. A 3G field is stored beneath the grass pitch for 50 weeks of the year, then wheeled out for the two games a season in the NFL’s home away from home.
It means Vikings players will not be able to attend Premier League soccer games, as the likes of Adam Thielen and Eric Kendricks did in 2017 before the Vikings’ victory over the Cleveland Browns at Twickenham.
The visit led to Thielen paying homage to French World Cup winner Thierry Henry’s knee slide during a two-touchdown performance.
Star receiver Justin Jefferson promised to show off his own trademark celebration in front of an international audience should he add to his two touchdowns this season.
“Griddy!” he said. Perhaps that will turn into “Britty.”
Asked about the eight-hour flight, he added: “Oh, I was knocked out the whole flight. So, definitely got my proper rest, for sure. It definitely was good to sleep the whole time. I hate being up for the whole flight.”
Advised to stay awake all of Friday, players powered through aided by cups of coffee.
“I had a good two, you know,” Jefferson said. “Adam (Thielen) tried to get me to drink a couple more. He’s the big coffee person of the team. So I might have to get a couple more cups of coffee tomorrow.”
Linebacker Kendricks also had a decent flight. “I slept like five and a half hours,” he beamed. “That’s good.”
Whatever happens, something has to give on Sunday. Both the Vikings (2-1) and the Saints are 2-0 in London. But the Saints (1-2), who arrived on Monday following a loss to Carolina, are banged up.
The Saints will be without wide receiver Michael Thomas (foot), guard Andros Peat (concussion) and safety Marcus Maye (rib).
Running back Alvin Kamara is doubtful, as is wide receiver Jarvis Landry (ankle). Quarterback Jameis Winston is questionable.
It means Andy Dalton likely will be under center. Playing for Cincinnati in 2016, he dueled with Cousins in a 27-27 tie when the Bengals played the Washington Commanders at Wembley Stadium.
Cousins threw for 458 yards and two touchdowns that day.
“It was a back-and-forth game, great game, exciting game, probably one of the better NFL games I’ve played in and been a part of, one of the more memorable ones certainly," Cousins said. "I would expect Sunday to be similar.”
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