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Kirk Cousins Turns to Flash Cards to Help Conquer Vikings New Verbiage

EAGAN, Minn. — Kirk Cousins is no stranger to learning a new system this time of year.

He is preparing for his fifth season with the Vikings and with Wes Phillips as Minnesota's fifth offensive coordinator since 2018.

The quarterback has reincorporated a learning device this year to match code words with concepts.

"I think it's just important to go back and learn, put in the time and not take anything for granted. Make sure that you're asking questions, you're spending time studying," Cousins said Tuesday after Minnesota's fifth Organized Team Activity practice. "For me, it's been a lot of time on flash cards. Just trying to memorize plays, terms, formations and protections and just the rules around all those things so it becomes instinctual.

"You feel like an eighth grader studying for a quiz in school the next day the way you go home each night and study, but that is really what it does take to come out here on the practice field and be able to just play instinctually," Cousins said.

View photos from the Vikings OTA practice which took place on May 24 at the TCO Performance Center.

The Vikings spent time in the red zone during Tuesday's practice, the second that has been open to the media, and Cousins delivered multiple crisp throws before he and Phillips headed to the media podium.

Phillips was on Washington's coaching staff from 2014-18, overlapping with Cousins there for four seasons (Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell was Cousins' quarterbacks coach there in 2017).

Phillips said Cousins' experience is helping as the Vikings install their 2022 offense and is "doing great."

"Kirk's got a lot of experience – a lot of games played and a lot of experience with a lot of concepts that we run. Some of it might just be detailed a little bit differently, the read might be slightly different, so those are some things that he's kind of adjusting to," Phillips said. "But his ability to reference things that he's already experienced is a huge asset for us; we're just trying to tweak instead of it being a whole new concept, a whole new system.

"He's kind of able to take these past experiences and say, 'This is what happened to me in the past,' so we can say, 'Well, this is how we're going to do it to help you there.' He's coming along really well," Phillips added.

Cousins said the flash cards have proven effective earlier in his career, but he hasn't used them "a lot in the past."

"I was kind of chuckling to myself, just the fact that that was how I was studying," Cousins said. "I thought, 'I've got to learn it somehow and if this works, great.' This is the first time, really, since 2014 when Jay Gruden was hired and then back in 2012 when I was a rookie coming from Michigan State to Kyle Shanahan's offense.

"Those were the only other two times in my career where I truly felt like I was learning it from scratch. I guess you could also say coming here in 2018, as well," Cousins added. "So you've had those moments in your career where you're saying, 'All right, I've got to really lock in and learn this.' Then there were other years where there were changes but they were more subtle. So this requires a lot of studying."

Phillips explained that the Vikings will plan to call more than one play in the huddle and rely on audibles that utilize streamlined communication and verbiage.

"We're not going to just spell it out and have the longest play calls known to man," Phillips said. "Everything is coded."

Phillips shared an anecdote from last season with Los Angeles as well as one he learned about from decades ago.

"We called a [play call] menu we had the 'Rampage Menu.' I don't know if anyone even knows that that's the mascot in L.A., but yeah, Rampage – in case you didn't know," Phillips said. "But I didn't want to use that word. There's certain things that we change.

"You know, my dad (Wade Phillips) always had a whole story about when he was in Philadelphia with Buddy Ryan, and Buddy was calling – I don't even remember the name – he was calling one of their pressures, like, 'Carl' or something," Phillips continued. "He said, 'Why is it called Carl?' He said, 'Because in Chicago, you know, Carl was the free safety, and he blitzed.' He said, 'Well, we don't have Carl. These guys don't know Carl.' There's some things like that we changed to try to make it a little more seamless transition."

Phillips said the new Vikings coaches "decided against" a "Viktor Menu."

"I mean, there was some talk about the 'Ragnar Menu.' It ended up going to the 'Rage Menu.' That's what Rampage turned into," he explained.

View photos from the Vikings fourth OTA practice, which took place on May 23 at the TCO Performance Center.

Cousins stepped back a decade to his rookie season when Shanahan was his offensive coordinator and explained "we're going to call" a particular play "Arches."

"We're watching the Greatest Show on Turf run it with Marshall Faulk, and I said, 'Well, why is it called Arches?' He said, 'Because they're from St. Louis, they ran the play the best and the [Gateway] Arch is in St. Louis.

"In 2020, we still called that play Arches, and I changed teams, changed people, but obviously Kyle had worked with the Kubiaks and there had been carryover, and it was still being called Arches years later. So I called it other things with Jay Gruden, with Sean [McVay], but it boomeranged back to Arches.

"In 2019, I believe it was, when it got installed and they put it up and I said, 'I've seen that play before and they say it's Arches.' And I thought, 'There you go. You learn these words and you learn these terms,' " Cousins said. "There's even a meeting where you're calling something different and you lean over and you're like, 'That's Arches, but it's not Arches anymore.' So you just continue to go. But I joke with guys like Sean Mannion that I'd love to watch that film of Marshall Faulk running those routes because it's pretty fun to be able to say to a younger player, 'Hey let me take you way back on these cut-ups to where it began.' "