Cousins: Empty stadium play could be 'refreshing'

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Amid uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins remains hopeful that he’ll be playing football games this fall.

While the NFL has pressed forward with plans to start the season as scheduled, Cousins noted Tuesday that he believes there are “creative and unique ways” to make certain that games take place.

Does that mean playing in empty stadiums without fans? Though the Vikings QB said he hasn’t given thought to that scenario, the possibility of games having an altered look and feel might not be the most foreign outcome for NFL players.

“Honestly, we practice every day in an empty grass area and pump in fake crowd noise for away games,” Cousins said on a conference call. “But more often than not, you’re used to it. OTA practices don’t have a lot of pomp and circumstance to them. So honestly to go out and just play the game would kind of be refreshing, a breath of fresh air, to just let us know that we don’t have to have all the smoke and the fire, we can just play football. So as long as we’re playing the game, I won’t have a lot of complaints, and hopefully if it’s still not returned to normal, we can find a way to make it work.”

Cousins recently had to cancel his annual offseason throwing session with teammates due to concerns over the spread of the virus. The quarterback will soon begin virtual OTAs from Orlando, where he and his family are spending time at his parents’ home.

Despite having to alter his training regimen, Cousins said his home workouts have been “surprisingly efficient,” and he feels his body is where it would normally be had the Vikings been on track to start OTAs at the team’s facility this month.

“I had my doubts, but I’m using technology to connect with my trainer, and I have enough equipment around the house that I can get a pretty good workout in,” Cousins said. “Physically, I feel really good. Playing catch is interesting … whether it’s my brother, who comes over, or a neighbor, or whoever is nearby … I play catch and I think my shoulder has been getting a lot of good work. I honestly feel like I’m in the same shape I’d be in if we’d had a normal life for the last month-and-a-half. I’m glad to have found a rhythm that works for me.”

Speaking publicly for the first time since the Vikings sent wide receiver Stefon Diggs and a 2020 seventh-round draft pick to Buffalo in exchange for four draft picks, including the Bills’ first-round selection at No. 22, Cousins noted a “unique dynamic” with the trade and the circumstances that led to his former teammate leaving Minnesota.

“It became apparent that he [Diggs] wanted to play elsewhere, and I think it was smart of the Vikings to grant him that opportunity,” the quarterback said. “I think it wasn’t a mystery, and that’s OK. I wish him really well. I just so enjoyed playing with him. He’s a special player, and we now have to find a way to move forward and replace that, if you will, with a variety of players. But I think that that’ll be our challenge going forward, is creating that talented option outside of Adam [Thielen] on the outside, and I think there’ll be a variety of ways to do that, and I’m excited to get started on that challenge.”

In an article penned by Diggs in The Players’ Tribune, the former Vikings wideout expressed admiration for Cousins after two seasons together and said the quarterback was among the first to reach out with well wishes.

“I think my text message to him said something along the lines of, ‘You’re as good as any receiver I’ve ever played with,'” Cousins said. “That includes some names like Adam Thielen, DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon … he’s elite. I just wanted to affirm him, and thank him. It sounds cliché but I’m as good as a quarterback as the guys around me. Specifically, as the people I have to throw to.

“There were a lot of games where his talent makes an enormous difference. I just wanted to let him know that, and I’m sure the Bills will be thrilled to have that. Again, we’re always looking for win-wins, whether that was with my contract or in Stefon’s situation. It didn’t seem to be able to work going forward as it was, so we tried to find the best win-win that we could, and I think it was impressive of the Vikings to find a situation that could work for both sides.”



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