Ponzo's Points: Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins Is Harming His Team

If you ask him, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has no dilemma when it comes to getting the Covid-19 vaccine.

"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," Cousins said. "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 this could never happen again? I've thought about it, because I'm going to do whatever it takes. We're going to avoid this close-contact thing, and I look forward to making sure I'm playing for every game this year."

"I'm going to do whatever it takes." No, what it takes for the so-called "leader" is to get the vaccine and not have to risk the team forfeiting a game and a possible playoff spot, because of a potential outbreak. But that's not the point here.

By not getting vaccinated, Cousins is putting himself ahead of the Vikings, who signed him to a three-year, $84 million contract prior to the 2018 season, and a two-year $66 million extension in March 2020.

An example: "As I said to Coach [Mike] Zimmer last night, I said, 'We can meet in the indoor, we can meet outside,'" Cousins said. "And I said, 'If it means meeting outside under a goalpost in January, if that's what it takes to get to the playoffs and be in playoff games and win playoff games, then that's where we're going to meet.'"

That's not what a leader says. That sounds more like an order to team management. I bet Aaron Rodgers wishes he had that power in Green Bay.

Minnesota has seen its share of Covid-19 issues already this pre-season. In a story published on si.com a few days ago, the Vikings currently have the lowest percentage of vaccinated players in the NFL, with just 64.5 percent of the players fully vaccinated, and if you include players in the process of getting their shots, the percentage moves up to 70. Those percentages suggest that 32 of Minnesota's 90 players are not fully vaccinated and 27 have not received a single shot.

After the start of camp, the Vikings moved former offensive line coach Rick Dennison to a senior position where he won't have any contact with players after he refused to get the vaccine. And last Saturday, three of the four Vikings quarterbacks, including Cousins, were put into the league's Covid-19 protocol after one tested positive and the others were deemed close contacts.

This is not a mask/no-mask debate, nor is it a pro- or anti-vaccine stance. I'm on record as saying that there is no doubt I would get the vaccine if my employer requires it. And although the NFL is not requiring the vaccine for players, the threat of a forfeit is a way for the league to tell its players to get the shot.

As in Buffalo, where only one player opposed Cole Beasley's anti-vaccination stance, most other players on the Vikings have remained mum, allowing the team's supposed leader to dictate the team's rules.

However, there is one Vikings player who has the courage to speak to the real issue here, and that's newly acquired cornerback Patrick Peterson, who sounds like the leader the Vikings need at this crucial time.

“We need all hands on deck and I know it’s personal preference, but if you’re trying to win a championship I want to put myself in the best position possible because at the end of the day we’ve got something going here,” Peterson said on the All Things Covered podcast, via Judd Zulgad of SkorNorth.com. “Obviously, you want to build depth but you have a greater chance by winning with your starters on the field.

“If we’re healthy we’re going to compete each and every Sunday. It’s every players’ personal preference if they want to get the vaccine or not, but ... I feel like I’m too important to this team not to get vaccinated. I miss an important game and now we possibly lose that game and that can be the game we needed to get into the playoffs.”

And in a time in the not-too-distant future, cut-down day, management likely will be forced to make decisions for the good of the team goal, not to mention their own pockets. If you're on the margin, you can bet a vaccinated player takes precedence over an unvaccinated one. And those who earn big money, such as Cousins, likely will face their own reckonings, as owners come to the realization that having an unvaccinated player on the team likely is going to be bad for business.

Other than to get paid as much as possible, NFL players have one goal: to have their hands on the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the season. NFL management has goals, too: to make as much money as possible.

And by putting his feelings ahead of the health and aspirations of his Viking teammates, Cousins is likely going to "lead" his team to yet another season of disappointment.

COVER PHOTO: Getty Images

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