Kirk Cousins returned to the Vikings' practice field on Wednesday, cleared to get back to work and charged up for two days against the 49ers after his bout with COVID-19.
Cousins left Vikings training camp last Thursday after he'd felt "a little lousy," and coach Kevin O'Connell said Friday morning the quarterback had tested positive for the virus. It put Cousins out for five days, keeping him home from the team's first preseason game in Las Vegas. He called it a "fluid situation" as to whether he would have played in the game if he'd been healthy, though he conceded if he were to be out because of the virus, the days he missed were probably as good a time as any.
"I was commenting to my wife that if I had to miss five days, and you were to be strategic about which five, you probably picked a pretty good five," Cousins said. "Thursday's practice would have been great to be part of, but Friday was lighter. Saturday was a travel day; Sunday [against the Raiders] would have been, at most, only about a half-dozen plays, and then Monday was an off day. So it worked out pretty well from that standpoint."
The quarterback said Wednesday morning he was "feeling good, feeling ready to go" for the start of the Vikings' joint practices with the 49ers. He took part in the entire practice as the Vikings' offense worked against San Francisco's defense, and provided a surprisingly salty moment after a completion to Adam Thielen over the middle, when he turned back toward his Vikings teammates and bellowed his "You like that?!" catchphrase with an uncharacteristically unprintable adverb as Vikings fans reacted with a mix of intrigue and excitement.
"The joint practices, there's always a little bit more juice, for obvious reasons," Cousins said Wednesday morning. "There just is a lot of familiarity after OTAs and after training camp. It's 15 weeks together of practice before you actually get to your first [regular-season] game. You want to go against somebody different, so I think it's really valuable to have these practices, and Kevin [O'Connell] strategically wants to make sure we get a lot out of these two days."
The Vikings could try to get enough out of them to limit their starters' work in their second preseason game against the 49ers on Saturday night, though their lone home exhibition game could also be a good chance for their first-team offense to play before the start of the regular season on Sept. 11.
Cousins said he was happy with the way backup quarterbacks Sean Mannion and Kellen Mond played in the Vikings' first preseason game on Sunday.
"There was good execution in the low red zone by both Sean and Kellen," Cousins said. "Any game you're going to have a few plays you want back. You're going to have a few really great plays. But all in all, I think our quarterbacks and our offense had a good feel, good command and hopefully we can build on that this week."
The passes Cousins threw in Wednesday's practice were the first he's attempted against another team with O'Connell as his head coach. He'll get another day of work against the 49ers on Thursday, regardless of whether he plays against them on Saturday. His return to the field this week, to resume sharpening his command of the Vikings' new offense while facing a team that played in the NFC Championship Game last season, came at a good time.
"[It's good] to be able to get him back for this practice, these two practices with the Niners, where we're playing a challenging front, a different scheme," offensive coordinator Wes Phillips said. "Being able to click through those progressions the way that he needs to is going to be important. … It's playing in rhythm, it's being able to click through with your feet in the ground, hitching in place, working through progressions, being able to see areas and really feel [open] areas [in the coverage] as opposed to watching routes. You can't watch routes; you've got to be able to feel and anticipate."