EAGAN, Minn. — Yes, Internet, Kirk Cousins does like playing football in front of fans.
He loves it when U.S. Bank Stadium is packed and loud when the other team has the football and spirited after Vikings scores. He also can appreciate the silence that follows a road victory like Minnesota's Wild Card game at New Orleans, or other venues where the SKOL Chant has been prevalent.
On Tuesday, Cousins participated in his first media availability — a video conference call with reporters — since signing a contract extension with Minnesota in March.
At the time of the signing, the live sports world had grinded to a halt because of efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19, a deadly, contagious disease caused by a new virus for which there is not yet a vaccine.
Other sports leagues are working through what a return to action might look like, even if contests are televised and not attended by fans.
He said Tuesday that he was "hopeful" for a full season in 2020.
"I think you've got to tread lightly with that statement, because you could never encourage getting back to work at the expense of peoples' lives," Cousins said. "So with the provision that people and their lives and their health will be in-tact and be safe, I think we can and should get back to football, and I believe there are creative and unique ways to do it if necessary. I think it would be great for our country, for football fans, to be able to watch games come the fall on the weekends. So however we can make that happen, if we can think outside the box, I'd say let's try to do that."
He was then asked about the possibility of playing in an empty stadium and responded with the following:
"I haven't really gone that far. Honestly, we practice every day in an empty grass area and pump in fake crowd noise for away games. But more often than not, you're used to it. OTA practices don't have a lot of pomp and circumstance to them. So honestly, to go out and just play the game would kind of be refreshing, a breath of fresh air, to just let us know that we don't have to have all the smoke and the fire, we can just play football. So as long as we're playing the game, I won't have a lot of complaints, and hopefully if it's still not returned to normal, we can find a way to make it work."
Headlines from national media outlets, including those that don't often cover sports, trimmed that down to "refreshing" or "breath of fresh air" to not have fans at games.
Cousins joined The Power Trip on KFAN Thursday morning and clarified that's not what he meant.
"My point was simply to say that I love the game of football, and the chance to play the game, even if it's an empty stadium, would still be refreshing," Cousins said. "Obviously people's safety, health and wellness is what's most important, but I would obviously prefer to have fans in the stands and have that electricity, especially with Vikings fans who are some of the most passionate fans of any team in the world. Ultimately, we're going to do what's best for everybody involved. I love the game of football so much that I'll play regardless. The great thing is, they do a great job of putting the game on TV, so if people have to watch it on TV, it's still going to be a great product and great to be able to give something to do to get back to normal life.
"I just have so much respect for our fan base that I would never want anyone who pays hard-earned money to watch us play feel that the players are not appreciative of that," Cousins added. "I would especially emphasize the opposite. So much of what we do and why we do it and the work we put in is because of what our fans bring to the table. That's what makes it a dream job and makes me feel like I'm living a dream. It's pretty easy to just clarify that and be able to move forward."
Cousins and the Vikings are preparing to begin a "virtual" offseason program next week.