EAGAN, Minn. — Dede Westbrook received a text from an unknown number Monday afternoon.
Turns out, it was from quarterback Kirk Cousins, who reached out to his new receiver soon after hearing of Westbrook’s signing the weekend before both reported for U.S. Bank Vikings Training Camp.
"I like Kirk," Westbrook told Twin Cities media members following Wednesday's practice, which was the first full-team session of the 2021 season. "I thought it was crazy because, obviously, Kirk's been in the league for a while. I've been watching him for a minute now, and for me to get that text message, 'Hey, it's Kirk Cousins,' he's excited to work with me, my heart kind of [skipped].
"I'm excited to be out there with him too, building that chemistry up," he added.
The Vikings didn't put Westbrook through the gauntlet on Wednesday but could soon shift where passes are also things he receives from Cousins.
Another Viking already is in a separate text chain with Westbrook.
For the past four years, he's gotten used to late-night messages and critiques from wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell. The Vikings hired McCardell this offseason after he spent 2017-2020 – the duration of Westbrook's career thus far – in Jacksonville.
According to Westbrook, reuniting with McCardell "played a part in it, for sure," in regards to his decision to join Minnesota.
"He means a lot. Coach McCardell is like a father figure to me. We're kind of from the same area [in Texas] – he's from Houston; I'm from Cameron – so we've been knowing each other for a little while now," Westbrook explained.
"Every time we work out, he kills me – he expects the most out of me. He shoots me text messages every night … what I'm doing wrong," Westbrook laughed.
In an interview this week with KFAN's Paul Allen on 9 to Noon, Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman spoke of McCardell's affinity for Westbrook.
View photos of Vikings players from 2021 U.S. Bank Vikings Training Camp practice at the TCO Performance Center.
"Keenan's been pounding on my door and [Head Coach Mike Zimmer's] door since February," Spielman said. "He is coming off an ACL [injury]. We did bring him in for a workout, interviewed him and went through our processes. We just thought it was another opportunity to add someone to come in and compete not only as a receiver, but he's also going to have the opportunity to earn that punt return job, which we needed to improve.
"That's one of the areas, with all of these young guys and some of the guys we drafted last year and this year, that's something that's going to be a very competitive position," Spielman added.
The general manager noted that McCardell's familiarity with Westbrook is a "huge advantage" as Westbrook learns a new offense the first week of training camp.
And Zimmer is impressed by what he's seen early on from the former Jaguar and sees tremendous potential – whether in competing for WR3 or punt returner.
"I watched Dede work out the other day and, man, he caught everything. It was very, very impressive," Zimmer said Tuesday. "And he's a big-speed guy who has been a good returner. We'll see how it all shakes out. We've got a lot of time."
It's now been eight months since Westbrook underwent surgery to repair a torn ACL. Although he acknowledged he's still "building back" to his pre-injury form, he's feeling good and excited to be back on the football field.
"I'm here, I'm running, getting back into the groove of things," Westbrook said. "It's hard, but at the end of the day, we're professionals. Obviously this isn't the first injury [I've had], and Minnesota has a great plan as far as balancing everything out for me … so the transition's been pretty easy so far.
"I honestly feel like I'm going to have a huge impact," he added. "I've been focusing on it a lot, been dialed in, and I've been trying to do everything I can to get on the field and [help] lead this team to a Super Bowl."
Is there any hesitation coming off a knee injury?
"Hell, nah. I wanted to play football," Westbrook said with a smile. "I was ready to go a month [ago]."