The Vikings are facing a worst-case scenario ahead of their Week 17 game against the Packers. They have lost their starting quarterback, Kirk Cousins, for the game after a positive COVID test.
Minnesota (7-8) was on the outside of the NFC playoff picture looking in, but they still had a chance to compete for one of the final two unclinched NFC Wild Card spots. However, Cousins’ positive test will make it difficult for them to compete with the 12-3 Packers, who have a high-powered offense featuring Aaron Rodgers, who may win his second consecutive MVP award.
Perhaps the Vikings’ backup quarterbacks can pull off a miracle, but for the time being, they are certainly in an undesirable position.
Here’s everything to know about Cousins landing on the COVID list, including his vaccination status and how long he might be on the list.
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Is Kirk Cousins playing against the Packers?
Kirk Cousins will not play against the Packers in Week 17. The NFL’s new COVID protocols require players to only quarantine for five days after a positive test, in accordance with new CDC guidelines, but Cousins tested positive on Friday, Dec. 31. That won’t give him enough time to clear COVID protocol before Sunday night’s game.
The Vikings are not only without Cousins, but they are also without backup quarterback Sean Mannion, who is also on the COVID list. Mannion is expected to be activated before Sunday’s game, as he was placed on the list Sunday, Dec. 26, but rookie Kellen Mond and journeyman Kyle Sloter would be the top two quarterbacks for the Vikings on “Sunday Night Football” if Mannion can’t play.
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Is Kirk Cousins vaccinated?
Kirk Cousins is not vaccinated. He will have to quarantine for a minimum of five days in wake of his positive test.
Cousins didn’t reveal his vaccination status, but he was placed on the COVID list as a “close contact” during the offseason. That label was designated only for unvaccinated players in 2021, which confirmed that he had not received the vaccine.
When asked about his status in August, Cousins declined to discuss it.
“I think the vaccination decision is a private health matter for me, and I’m going to keep it as such,” Cousins said, per NFL.com. “I do believe that as a leader of the team it’s very important to follow the protocols to avoid this close contact because that is what it’s going to come down to. Did you have a close contact? So I’m going to be vigilant about avoiding a close contact.
“I’ve even thought about, should I just set up literally Plexiglas around where I sit so that this could never happen again? I’ve thought about it. Because I’m going to do whatever it takes. So we’re going to avoid this close-contact thing and I look forward to making sure I’m playing for every game this year.”
Cousins was able to avoid testing positive for the first 16 weeks of the season. However, he fell short of his goal and will now have to miss at least one game as a result of his positive test.
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When can Kirk Cousins return from the COVID list?
Cousins can return from the COVID list as early as five days after his positive test. The NFL’s new COVID protocols mirror that of the CDC, which has implemented a rule that people need only quarantine for five days after a positive test instead of 10.
It’s worth noting that Cousins was symptomatic, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, so it’s unclear whether that will impact his ability to return to action. But he should at least have a chance to play in Week 18 if he can get healthy.
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How Kirk Cousins’ absence could impact Vikings playoff chances
The Vikings are in dire straits with Cousins out for their “Sunday Night Football” game against the Packers. Minnesota’s will now have to choose a new starter. It will likely be Mannion, but he hasn’t practiced yet this week. Meanwhile, Mond and Sloter have never thrown NFL passes.
Minnesota is sitting at 7-8 and is currently the No. 8 seed in the NFC playoff race. However, a loss could eliminate them from playoff contention if both the 49ers and Eagles win in Week 17. And even if they aren’t eliminated, they will need a lot of help in Week 18 to make the postseason if they can’t beat the Packers.
It will be very hard for the Vikings to beat the Packers without Cousins, so his positive test well may torpedo the team’s season.