EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings annual Night Practice at TCO Stadium was Jake Browning all day, every play.
The other three quarterbacks were unable to participate in the session because of COVID-19 protocols agreed to by the NFL and NFLPA.
They remained on the shelf after Sunday's off day as players returned to Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer was pleased with the way Browning responded on Saturday evening after finding out earlier in the day he was going to be "QB only" instead of QB2, 3 or 4.
"I thought he did really well. I thought the offensive guys rallied behind him, doing their best to help him in a lot of situations," Zimmer said. "He took every play, lot of 7-on-7 reps, lot of 1-on-1s, so I thought he did well. Made some good throws."
"He's a pretty confident kid. … There was a break from one period to the next period, I was walking over to the huddle and he said, 'Don't cut any reps.' So, he wanted to get him all. He's got a little bit of confidence out there," Zimmer added.
Browning, who joined Minnesota in 2019 as an undrafted free agent and has spent the past two seasons on Minnesota's practice squad, simply said "reps are really valuable" for someone in his situation.
"I didn't want anyone to think that I didn't want to take every single one of those reps, and I didn't want to be in a situation where they were cutting practice and taking valuable reps away from other guys [or me]," Browning said. "I just thought with the situation the way that it is, I want to get as many reps out of it as I can. When you're a back-up quarterback, those reps are really valuable so I wanted to take every single one."
Browning said he called upon the mindset that he's implemented for the past two seasons.
"I've always prepared really well, tried to know all of the plays on the script. I think that's part of being a back-up in this league – you've always got to be ready," Browning said. "Like I said, I've been preparing like that for two years so when the opportunity presented itself, I felt like I was ready."
Even still, joining an NFL team has been quite the transition for a record setter in the California high school ranks who followed with a Pac-12-best 39 victories as a starter at the University of Washington.
Browning thanked strength and conditioning coaches for working with him, as well as former Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak and Klint Kubiak, who was his position coach the past two seasons before being promoted to offensive coordinator. He also thanked quarterbacks coach Andrew Janocko, a former QB, for helping manage the amount of throwing in individual drills.
View photos of Vikings players at training camp during the night practice at TCO Stadium.
"I think a big part of that was also Klint and Gary Kubiak investing a lot of time and effort in making sure I was on top of different playbook stuff and giving me things to work on before and after practice," Browning said. "Gary Kubiak used to say 'Nobody knows if you're ready until you just get thrown in there.'
"I think there was some confidence, as far as my preparation and stuff like that among the coaches," Browning continued. "Maybe they were lying, but I felt like they had some confidence in me being able to go through practice and deal with that many reps and stuff like that. It's obviously an opportunity. You get a lot of reps and take advantage of those reps and take it one day at a time."
Vikings.com's Eric Smith charted Browning's night as 26-for-37 during 11-on-11 team drills for an impressive completion percentage of 70.3 percent.
The Vikings on Monday announced that quarterbacks Kirk Cousins, Nate Stanley and Kellen Mond have been placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, as well as receiver Myron Mitchell. It is not known when the quarterbacks will be able to return.
Minnesota also signed quarterback Case Cookus on Monday, and the former Northern Arizona Lumberjack hit the field for the first time.
View exclusive black-and-white photos from the July 31 night practice during 2021 U.S. Bank Vikings Training Camp by team photographer, Andy Kenutis.
Quote of the Day
"I've talked to the team about it, you know, about some of the things going on. Our guys have been pretty good about it, really. I'm probably the most vocal out of all of them. I just feel like we're going to have guys miss games. There are so many cases going on right now. We're going to have guys miss some games, and we have to be prepared for it."
— Zimmer when he was asked Monday about not letting split beliefs on the COVID-19 vaccine become divisive in the locker room; asked a follow-up if the sympathy extended last year when players missed games before vaccines existed has changed to frustration, he said:
"I'd say that's exactly right because I think, going through all the things you had to do last year with masks, protocol, traveling, can't leave for a day, can't go out and see your family and all the things — can't go out to dinner on the road, have to wear masks on the plane, all that stuff. It was just difficult. I just don't understand. I just don't understand, I think we could put this thing to bed if we all do this. But it is what it is."
2 More Points
Here are two other takeaways from Monday's media session.
1. Well wishes for Bisi Johnson
Johnson, a receiver preparing for his third pro season, left Friday's practice and was placed on Injured Reserve Monday.
It's a disappointing ending to the 2021 campaign for the player who has totaled 45 catches, 483 yards and three scores through two seasons.
"Bisi's a good kid. Works real hard, knows all the positions," Zimmer said. "It was a non-contact injury. Just went to make a cut, so we'll miss him. He'll come back. He's a strong-minded, tough person."
2. Every detail matters
Longtime assistant coach Ryan Ficken was promoted this offseason to special teams coordinator, and there's no doubt he intends to boost Minnesota's showing from 2020 in the punt return and kickoff return games.
The Vikings haven't been able to replace the production of Marcus Sherels or Cordarrelle Patterson in recent seasons, but Ficken expressed confidence in the players on Minnesota's roster to help those units make positive differences for the team.
"Every situation, every phase is going to be prioritized," Ficken said. "You never know when you're going to get the opportunity to go ahead and affect a game, and that's what we're here to do. We're here to be very explosive in the return phases. We've got to make sure we do a great job of that, and with kickoff return, even thought it's limited, it doesn't mean we're not going to get those opportunities.
"We've been around a lot of explosive returners in the past, with Cordarrelle Patterson, and obviously Marcus Sherels has had his successes as a returner, but it's talking about the details, being disciplined and making sure we uncover every stone before we just throw guys out there," Ficken said. "They're not here now, but I think that's going to help as we continue to implement our core beliefs in the return game."