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Fresh Off Red-Eye Flight, Mannion Not Wide-Eyed in Return to Vikings

EAGAN, Minn. — Sean Mannion stepped to the podium Thursday morning, a weary smile on his face.

One couldn't blame the Vikings quarterback for looking a tad jet-lagged.

"Landed here at 5:30 in the morning. I was on a red-eye [flight] from Portland [Oregon]," Mannion said. "Got to the hotel at 6 and got picked up at 6:20 for my physical. And I'm still here.

"It's been almost 30 hours straight, so I'm getting a little tired, but I think some coffee will cure that," Mannion added after a morning walk-through session capped the Vikings week of practice.

That, plus the excitement of being back in Minnesota, a place he spent the past two seasons as Kirk Cousins' backup.

Mannion was signed to the practice squad Thursday morning, so he isn't listed on the Vikings 53-man roster at the moment. But he could still be elevated twice on game day and fill that role if Kellen Mond doesn't.

"You know, Sean just got here not long before practice," said Vikings Offensive Coordinator Klint Kubiak. "We'll talk about that as coaches, but I feel like any one of those three guys can play for us."

Mannion added: "I'm just taking it one day at a time. Like I said, I've been here for less than four hours, and I'm just taking it as it comes. I go where they send me. For me, my first focus here is really to get reacquainted with the offense. From one walk-through, I feel like I'm pretty far along, all things considered. That's the only thing I'm focused on at this point."

Whether Mannion suits up on game day or not, the Vikings made it clear how much they value his leadership, smarts and familiarity with the offense by bringing him back.

Mannion was with the Vikings in 2019 and 2020, starting just one game in the 2019 season finale when Minnesota had already clinched a playoff spot.

Behind the scenes, however, he was a sounding board for Cousins and an extra set of eyes on the sideline to help the Vikings starter prepare and adjust to opposing defenses each week.

"I think the first thing that gets lost is Sean's a good player. He's had some good film and he has a lot to offer a team physically," said Kubiak, who was Mannion's position coach the past two seasons. "But mentally, there's very few guys I've been around as bright as him. The way he sees the game, the way he communicates with the coaches, he's an extra coach on the field on top of being a heck of a player.

"They work very well together; bounce ideas off each other," Kubiak added. "Sean has seen a lot of football, as has Kirk so there's just a lot of experience in that room. Adds a lot of value to our offense."

Mannion said he jumped at the chance to return to the Vikings after he was released Wednesday by the Seahawks, the team he spent training camp and the preseason with.

"He's one of my closest friends I've had in the league," Mannion said of Cousins. "Just being teammates, you cross paths with a lot of people, so we're good friends and we've kept in touch since I first came here in 2019. He's a good friend of mine.

"You enjoy being around people at work that you get along with, and that's certainly the case for me and Kirk," Mannion added. "I've said it a bunch of times, but especially in the quarterbacks room, there's a lot of long hours with one another, studying and getting ready for an opponent, so me and Kirk have spent a lot of time together over the last two years. It's cool seeing him, and I'm excited to get to work with him again."

View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of Jan. 5, 2022.

Mannion noted Thursday morning despite the craziness the past day included, at least he doesn't have to worry about learning a whole new offensive playbook.

Yes, there are some changes from a year ago, but Mannion said he has a pretty solid understanding of what Kubiak's scheme will look like this season.

"I remember — from the one walk-through I've been at so far … I haven't even been in a meeting yet — there's a lot of familiarity," Mannion said. "Hearing Klint calling the plays, 'Oh I know what that is, I know what that is. I know the read there, where the back is,' that kind of stuff.

"I think there's always going to be, even when it's the same system, there's always going to be little changes from year to year, little details that you're tinkering with," Mannion added. "I think it will just be picking up those. Like I said, I've only been here one walk-through at this point, but I think it's all real familiar."

Kubiak said he wasn't surprised Mannion hit the ground running.

"First thing that stands out is size and arm strength," Kubiak said. "Sean is a big guy, can see the whole field, he's got an arm to make all the throws, and as I said before, his intelligence allows him to play really fast.

"Knows all the spots, knows how to distribute the ball and is a really good teammate," Kubiak added. "His teammates respect him and he can get everybody on the same page, all 11 together."

Mannion said he hoped to re-sign with the Vikings this spring when he was a free agent, but it wasn't in the cards at that time.

But he's back in Purple now. And no matter what his role ends up being, Mannion will certainly have an influence on the offense, even if it's behind the scenes.

"I think, honestly, a good quarterback room is you're all learning together. So it's really a collaborative environment all helping each other study," Mannion said. "You're all helping each other develop, you're all helping each other get prepared for the game. So from me to Kellen, me to Kirk, I think it's honestly, really we're all a sounding board for one another. And that's always the way I've looked at it.

"We're all in there together for, like I said, really long hours, and we're all trying to help one another. So I think that's the beauty of the quarterback position," Mannion added. "Usually there's only two, three, four of you guys in a room at most, so you get to know each other really well, and you're always doing everything you can to help each other because ultimately that's helping you get prepared."