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The Minnesota Vikings have had a loud offseason, headlined by head coach Mike Zimmer calling out his team over low vaccination rates.
Zimmer’s comments came back on July 31, when the Vikings had just one quarterback available for a practice due to COVID-19 protocols.
Fast forward to today, and Minnesota’s COVID-19 vaccination numbers leave the team in limbo at the start of the season, according the The Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling.
Minnesota has a 81.2% vaccinate rate, which is low compared to the average NFL rate of 93%. The Vikings currently have 13 players on the 53-man active roster and practice squad who remain unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated, with some huge names on that list.
The list includes:
- Quarterback Kirk Cousins
- Running back Dalvin Cook
- Wide receiver Adam Thielen
- Safety Harrison Smith
- Defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson
Imagine it’s Week 12 in your fantasy football league and Cook goes down a week for you due to a positive COVID-19 test or as a close contact. That’s the reality for fantasy football owners, but it’s even more important on the field for Minnesota, who look to get back into the playoffs this season after an underwhelming 7-9 campaign in 2020.
The updated NFL COVID-19 policy this season states that if any team cannot reschedule a game during the 18-week schedule due to an outbreak among unvaccinated players, then that team will forfeit the game and be credited with a loss.
In addition, unvaccinated players who test positive will be forced to quarantine for at least 10 days. Unvaccinated players who are deemed close contacts must quarantine and test negative for five consecutive days to return to their teams.
Cousins in particular has been vocal about his decision not to take the vaccine, telling reporters back in August the lengths he would go in order not to become a close contact with any teammates.
“I’m going to be vigilant about avoiding a close contact,” Cousins said. “I even thought about, should I just set up, literally, plexiglass around where I sit, so that this never happens again. I thought about it, because I’m going to do whatever it takes.”
Former NFL quarterback Josh McCown fired back at Cousins recently, telling the Twin Cities Pioneer Press that he believes that Cousins’ decision impacts his ability to lead.
“Obviously, he has a firm belief in his systems of beliefs that are leading him to say, ‘I don’t want to vaccinate,’ and that’s his business,” McCown said. “But given the effect and the impact that it can have on a team, we don’t share the same beliefs on that aspect. And I just think you want to lead the way and do everything that allows you to be effective for your team, and so if you don’t (get vaccinated) … I think that takes away from some of your ability to lead.”
Despite the criticism of his team, Zimmer maintains that he just does not want to see anybody on his team become sick.
“I care about these players and I care about their families. So that’s my main reason,” Zimmer said. “If they miss a game because they get COVID, so be it. But I don’t want them to get sick.”