The Vikings’ 1-5 start amid quarterback Kirk Cousins’ league-leading 10 interceptions has drawn questions about the team’s commitment to Cousins, which General Manager Rick Spielman defended again Thursday during a bye-week chat with local reporters.
The Vikings gave Cousins a two-year, $66 million contract extension this spring after the 32-year-old’s first NFL playoff win, and the veteran’s rocky start to the 2020 season hasn’t shaken the franchise’s belief in the quarterback, according to Spielman.
“You just kind of have to go back and look at the big picture,” Spielman said. “But I don’t think anyone has lost any faith in Kirk Cousins. I expect him to come back after the bye week and play well for us.”
It has been a boom-or-bust start for Cousins, whose 8.4 yards per attempt trails only Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson and Justin Herbert.
But the lows, including him throwing three first-half interceptions in Sunday’s loss to the previously winless Falcons, led coach Mike Zimmer to call some of Cousins’ decisions “strange.”
The coach had to field questions about benching Cousins, which he said could happen if he doesn’t improve.
“I know he’s very hard on himself,” Spielman said. “Some of the interceptions were not his fault. Some of them were poor decisions. But I don’t have any doubt that he’s going to be able to rally.”
As the NFL tries to prepare teams for COVID-19 cases and outbreaks, the league had teams already experienced in the intensive protocols, such as the Vikings, share tips with other teams during conference calls this week, according to Dawn Aponte, the NFL’s chief football administration officer.
After the Sept. 27 loss to the Titans, the Vikings were the NFL’s first team placed in the intensive protocols — which requires fewer in-person meetings, smaller weight-room sessions and limited locker room time. The Vikings haven’t had any positive player cases since August.
The NFL is also quarantining “high-risk” contacts for a minimum of five days. The Raiders placed four starting offensive linemen and safety Johnathan Abram on the reserve/COVID-19 list after tackle Trent Brown’s diagnosis this week.
Players can return on the sixth day following the last high-risk contact, according to Aponte.
Iloka has torn ACL
George Iloka, the veteran safety and special teams contributor, suffered a torn ACL during Wednesday’s practice, the Vikings’ last on-field session before the bye-week break, and will undergo season-ending surgery, according to a league source. Iloka was placed on injured reserve Thursday.
Iloka had re-signed with the Vikings in September. His injury leaves rookie Josh Metellus as the lone safety on the active roster behind Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris.