Vikings coach Mike Zimmer isn’t holding back on players who refuse to get the COVID-19 vaccine, including his own.
The eighth-year Minnesota coach talked at length about the vaccine on Monday, lamenting that several of his players have refused to get it and reduce the risk of missing time during the 2021 NFL season.
Zimmer agreed with a reporter’s suggestion that he is frustrated with players this year — as opposed to sympathetic last year — because this time around they have the vaccine available to them. From the Vikings’ official Twitter account:
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“I just don’t understand. I just don’t understand that, you know, I think we could put this thing to bed if we’d all do this,” Zimmer said. “But it is what it is.”
Players’ aversion to the vaccine has directly impacted Minnesota’s most important position group, as quarterbacks Kirk Cousins, Kellen Mond and Nate Stanley were placed on the COVID-19 reserve list. It is for players who tested positive or were in close contact with someone who is positive. Cousins is expected to be out till Thursday, as a high-risk close contact.
Because of that, Jake Browning, who is vaccinated, was the only Vikings quarterback available to practice on Saturday. Minnesota signed Case Cookus after a Monday workout, bringing the total number of quarterbacks able to practice to two. The team also claimed Danny Etling off waivers from Seattle.
Zimmer said the issue is not unique to one position group; he said he has spoken at length to his team as a whole about the vaccine, and “there are quite a few guys that are just against it.” It’s enough of an issue that he’s afraid players are going to miss games.
“I’m not going to be able to change their mind, so, it’s like half the country, I guess,” Zimmer said (per the Star Tribune).
Players missing games isn’t the only thing on the line. The NFL has made it clear it won’t have sympathy for teams that miss games because of outbreaks: If a game can’t be rescheduled during the 18-week regular season, the team with the outbreak will forfeit the game, and neither team’s players will be paid. Players will also be subject to heavy fines during training camp and preseason if they don’t wear tracking devices or undergo virus testing.