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Cousins Describes Passion, Purpose and Portillo's Orders

EAGAN, Minn. — Kirk Cousins followed his first home game in a Vikings uniform by returning—sort of—to his hometown roots.

Born in Chicago before moving to Michigan, Cousins opted for a postgame meal at the Woodbury location of Windy City-based chain, Portillo's. It was his final night as a 29-year-old, which prompted the initial question of how he celebrated his birthday.

"I love that place. Grew up in Chicago and was thrilled to hear they have a couple here in the Twin Cities," Cousins said. "I went to Portillo's Saturday night and then other than that, just kind of sat around on Sunday on my birthday.

"As we were leaving the other night and the coaches said, 'Quarterbacks, can you stay? Do you have anywhere to be?' I looked at him and said, 'I have no life here. I am here to play football for the Minnesota Vikings. I don't have a whole lot else going on. You let me know. I'll be here.'

"I found that to be true on my birthday as well," Cousins said. "I sit around, I have the free time, but I don't really know what to do. I haven't really built that much of a life here yet, so it was kind of funny."

Fellow Chicagoan original, ESPN's Courtney Cronin, asked the obvious follow-up question about what he orders to eat.

"I get the whole gamut. It's not the best for me, but Chicago dog, Italian beef with sweet peppers," Cousins explained. "I like it dry or drier. Double cheeseburger, fries. The crinkle-cut fries are the best. The chocolate cake shake is hard to beat. I didn't do all that. I've been known when I go to Chicago to do all that."

Enough about food bites and over to sound bites. Cousins' media sessions have been full of interesting information since he signed with Minnesota in March.

Wednesday's session was no different.

He was asked if there's a common denominator of successful quarterbacks and said he's often asked himself if a "consistent theme."

"Because if I don't have it, I better get it if I want to last in this league," Cousins said. "I think there are many ways to define it or articulate it. But it is a love for the game and a passion for the game where this stuff matters. They come out to practice with intentionality, and they stay after and study the game with a purpose.

"They know how to use their offseasons to get better," he added. "They lead teammates with a purpose. They take care of their health with a purpose. When you treat this game like a job and not a hobby and it matters to you, usually you got here for a reason, you'll end up being successful."

Cousins said he tries not to annoy other QBs by incessantly picking their brains. He did in 2015, however, ask Tom Brady at what point the five-time Super Bowl champ thought he had it "completely figured out."

Brady replied, "It's still clicking. It's still a process."

"I've always taken that with me and felt like every day I come out here I pick up something new. I sharpen a skill," Cousins said. "It will always be that way until the day I retire. Certainly, when you are in your first year in an offense and haven't played in a real game yet, there is a lot more sharpening to do than year five or six."

Cousins added that he believes he is ready to play at a high level in Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo's system.

Here are three other topics covered by Cousins.

On the potential of Mike Remmers and Rashod Hill returning to action

"I think getting those guys back is a big asset. Offensive line plays a big deal, especially when you're someone like me who is going to try to throw from the pocket and isn't going to try to make guys miss and run around a long time," Cousins said. "The sturdier the pocket can be, the better off we are. I want to progress through my reads and potentially work all the way through a progression. It takes protection to do that. Anytime you can get players who have been in the fight before and have seen all the blitzes that can be thrown at you and have played in big games, it gives you a little more comfort and confidence. Certainly not just for me, but the play caller designing the schemes gives him a little more freedom to call the whole playbook."

On if preseason results are predictors of a season's success

"I think there are a lot of ways you can look at the preseason and discredit the outcome and say, 'Well, let's not take that too seriously,' " Cousins said. "I think you don't have to look any further than last year's third preseason game here. I remember watching the game on TV. The way that game went was certainly not a tale of the way the seasons went for those two teams, especially out of the gate.

"Yet, I do think it tells you something. You have to learn from it and teach off of it," he continued. "We are going to have injuries during the season. I was just watching the game I played in against Seattle last year. Four of our five starting offensive linemen were out at that point in the year. Unfortunately, you have to play with whoever is ready, and you can't use injuries as an excuse."

On sideline-to-field communication with DeFilippo

"Just giving him feedback as plays are coming in of all the little things. When you are on the sideline, you have a lot of noise coming in as opposed to when you're in the box. I may say, 'Hey, when that call came in, you were yelling because it's loud in the stadium, but I can hear you just fine. In the headset, it is going to come through clearer if you just say it clearly.'

"So there are little tidbits I can give him like that. Again, he is very coachable, listens, which is awesome," Cousins added. "There are other times coming off of a series he can say to me, 'Hey, what were you doing with your feet there or why didn't you work the X? He was open.' There can be more direct communication there rather than having to get on the phone and talk to him up in the box. It's a little more personal on the sideline."