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Cousins Experiments in Red Zone, Looks Forward to Summer Studies

EAGAN, Minn. — It was a day of highs and lows for Kirk Cousins.

The Vikings quarterback hit on a pair of deep passes in the Vikings minicamp practice on Wednesday, but he also threw a pair of interceptions in the red zone late in the session.

Cousins was a bit miffed with himself in his post-practice podium session with the media, but also cautioned that he'd prefer to make mistakes now rather than in three months when the action is a bit more meaningful.

"Third downs in the red zone were the emphasis of that period, and they're going to be a big emphasis for us all season," Cousins said. "Our backs are against the wall a little bit, but on the first one, I just couldn't get all the way through the throw, so the ball died on me. The second one, I was testing things a little bit and trying to see what I could get away with, and I learned pretty quickly that I can't get away with that throw.

"Some of the beauty of [minicamp] is that you can test and experiment, you can try things without the ramifications that you would have during the season," Cousins added. "You've just got to learn from them and use them and bank those reps, so that come the season, you're making good decisions in those critical situations."

Cousins will wrap up his early tenure in Minnesota on Thursday, when the Vikings hold their third and final minicamp practice.

The Vikings will open training camp in Eagan at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center for the first time in late July.

Cousins previewed his summer break on Wednesday and said he'll take lessons learned from previous seasons as to how he will approach the time off.

Something Cousins won't do, he explained, was go full force with his studying and preparation.

And, as Cousins mentioned multiple times Wednesday, he'll still have more than six weeks to keep getting acclimated to his teammates and the Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo's offense before the season begins on Sept. 9.

"It's a balance for me, and I've had to learn this after playing the last few years," Cousins said. "Last year [in Washington] we got to like Week 2, and because of how much I was grinding all camp and even in the summer, I felt like we were in Week 12. I couldn't believe that we were only in Week 2 because I had treated July and August like it was game day.

"You have to pace yourself a little bit. Because I feel a little behind the 8-ball and am learning the offense, I do need to be in it every day, but there also needs to be a healthy balance of getting away, catching your breath, and getting a change of scenery, knowing that when we come back at the end of July we still have six more weeks before week one," Cousins added. "I'm trying to find that balance, getting better at it each year, but to answer your question, I'll definitely get away, relax, and also just stay in it every day for a few minutes so I don't lose what I've gained."

When Cousins does choose to switch his mind to football each day, he'll likely try to refresh his memory from the past few months rather than cram new material into it.

"I think the more important level of communication will be between me and the coaches, talking about some philosophy things and how I want plays to be designed," Cousins said. "I'll have my iPad with me as I go home, and I'll spend time every day going back.

"It's a bit like drinking through a firehose right now, I need to use the five or six weeks of the summer to go back. I'll the stuff I didn't catch, go back through and see that I had starred this, I had check marked this as something to go back to when we had time rather than take time when we were so busy," Cousins added. "I'm going to go back, I'll make a list, probably get on the phone with Coach DeFilippo or give (Vikings quarterbacks coach Kevin) Stefanski an email and just go through it all to get each question answered over the summer."

For now, Cousins has one last minicamp practice to finalize his crash course on his first few months in Minnesota.

And you can bet he wants to end the spring on a high note before the intensity really kicks up as the 2018 season approaches.

"I think right now I was pretty salty walking off the field, I'm really frustrated," Cousins said about his turnovers. "I do not want to walk into the summer with a bad taste in my mouth about practice, so hopefully we can finish really strong [Thursday] and be feeling good going in to the summer.

"Even one bad decision in practice kind of bothers me all afternoon, and I can be a bit of a grouch when I go home, so that one bothered me," Cousins added.

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