Desperate and shorthanded, Vikings can blame betrayals by unvaccinated players

The sports lexicon has been tragically expanded.

Every athlete must be “focused,” even though Vince Lombardi’s Packers excelled before an athlete ever uttered the word.

Every athlete “grinds,” meaning that somehow a two-hour workout is more impressive than an eight-hour shift at a fast-food restaurant.

Thanks to the rise of league and team-owned media sites and reporters, we also have been given the gift that never stops grifting — the notion of “adversity.”

The word “adversity” allows team-owned and team-friendly media to celebrate every victory as if it were achieved by Sisyphus, and excuse every loss as if it were a reenactment of the Alamo. As if every sprained ankle is a burden only the rare team can overcome.

On Sunday, the Vikings will, yes, face adversity. Anyone using that word as an excuse or a celebration on Sunday afternoon will be carrying water for fools.

The Vikings are facing “adversity” because of their own actions and decisions.

They will play against the Los Angeles Rams without star running back Dalvin Cook. Cook will miss the game and perhaps next week’s showdown at Green Bay because he tested positive for COVID-19 and is unvaccinated.

They need to win this game because they have blown games that they should have won. At Detroit. At home against Baker Mayfield when Mayfield wasn’t healthy enough to throw downfield. At Cincinnati when Cook fumbled. Against Dallas at home when facing the immortal Cooper Rush.

There was also a loss in Baltimore in which one more defensive play would have given the Vikings a victory … but star safety Harrison Smith wasn’t there because he is unvaccinated and tested positive for COVID.

Apply the word “adversity” to these Vikings, and you are required to precede it with “self-imposed.”

It is possible for the Vikings to beat the Rams without Cook, or to lose in a way that Cook’s presence may not have altered.

That doesn’t matter. What matters is that the Minnesota Vikings are facing an important game that could determine whether a lot of key figures keep their jobs, and they are again being sold out by one of their highest-paid players.

The Vikings have signed Smith to contracts that could total about $75 million. He refused entreaties from Vikings leaders and medical staffers to get a vaccine that would keep him as healthy as possible, keep his team as healthy as possible, and give him the best chance to play a full season.

The Vikings have signed Cook to contracts that could total about $63 million. He, like Smith, decided not to get vaccinated.

These are betrayals. They are also acts of idiocy. The television personalities and politicians who are urging people like Smith and Cook to remain unvaccinated are themselves vaccinated. They are playing people like Smith and Cook for fools.

Which brings us to Kirk Cousins, the quarterback you can’t trust.

Only by sheer luck has Cousins, who is also unvaccinated, avoided testing positive and leaving the Vikings in a playoff race with Sean Mannion at quarterback. Of course, working alongside Cousins also leaves Mannion at greater risk of contracting the virus.

By the end of next season, Cousins will have made $200 million in the NFL, a league that has begged him to get vaccinated.

He could also seem to use a shot of adrenaline.

Through Nov. 21, Cousins was having his finest season, and had just produced like a superstar in consecutive victories over the Chargers and Packers.

In his past four games he has:

• Lost to a mediocre 49ers team while throwing a bad interception and failing to produce a pass play of more than 30 yards.

• Lost to the Detroit Lions.

• Thrown two interceptions while completing 14 of 31 passes as the Vikings almost blew a 29-point lead to the Steelers.

• Thrown another interception and produced 87 passing yards in an abysmal performance against the awful Bears.

Because of the NFL’s engineered mediocrity and expanded playoffs, the Vikings well could qualify for the postseason.

If they do so, this will be a triumph over self-imposed adversity, a survival of fools.