Maybe the fight to get more COVID-19 vaccine shots into arms needs to be more carrot and less stick. For instance, if you get fully vaccinated against the novel coronavirus, you could be the backup quarterback for the Vikings.
Jake Browning was the only quarterback available for Minnesota’s practice on Saturday night, because Kellen Mond reportedly tested positive, while Nate Stanley and starter Kirk Cousins had to stay away due to protocols for the unvaccinated.
“I am disappointed that this happened,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “I’m frustrated, not just with my football players who didn’t get vaccinated, but I’m frustrated with everybody [who didn’t]. We’ll just do the best we can.”
Mond is reportedly vaccinated, which would make his infection a breakthrough case and simply unfortunate. Cousins, meanwhile, gave up the game about his vaccine status when he refused to talk about it in June (people who have gotten their shots are happy to talk about it, because it doesn’t hurt, it’s effective, and it’s simply the right thing to do in the middle of a pandemic that has killed more than 600,000 people in this country). By getting the vaccine, Browning impressed his coach.
“Jake’s really smart,” Zimmer said. “He’s vaccinated. That helps to be the backup. So, as we move forward here, he’s going to get a ton of reps. … He’s out there. He’s available. That’s important. It’s important to be available when you’re playing football, a team sport.”
It’s not just the quarterbacks who are gumming up the works with the Vikings. Last week, Minnesota dismissed offensive line coach Rick Dennison, who refused to get the shot, though he returned to the organization as an adviser because even though he doesn’t believe in blocking the virus, he knows about countering run blitzes.
Perhaps just letting Dennison go quietly into that ignorant night would have been the move, but then, even that probably would not have influenced Cousins, who last year said he was “at peace” with the possibility of getting COVID, and that “if I die, I die.”
Here’s hoping that he doesn’t, and here’s hoping that this latest outbreak spurs more people to get the jab. After all, the vaccine can bring you one step closer to fulfilling your dream of suiting up on Sundays.