MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins was activated from the COVID-19/reserve list on Wednesday and will start in the season finale against Chicago, according to coach Mike Zimmer.
Cousins was unable to play in the Vikings' 37-10 loss at Green Bay on Sunday, a defeat that knocked Minnesota out of postseason contention, after testing positive for COVID-19 on Dec. 31. The quarterback, who said his symptoms were "mild," watched his team play on television in Week 17 while he remained at home.
"It's a unique time we're in," Cousins said. "Just had my call sheet out in front of me watching the game and still trying to stay as engaged as I could."
Cousins is subject to daily testing according to the NFL and NFLPA's COVID protocols because he is unvaccinated. Asked about the criticism he received for having to miss a game because of testing positive while being unvaccinated, Cousins said he would not have been able to play regardless because he was symptomatic.
"In my instance, it wouldn't have mattered just because I had mild symptoms," Cousins said. "They don't want you playing the game with COVID. I would have tested positive regardless. In my case, it didn't make a big difference."
The Vikings are missing the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time in Zimmer's tenure. Even though the Chicago game does not carry postseason implications, Zimmer confirmed that Cousins won't be the only starter playing in Week 18. The coach said earlier this week that he would play all of Minnesota's starters if they are available, and he doubled down on that notion Wednesday.
"It ain't about nothing but competing and getting better," running back Dalvin Cook said. "Shooting your bullets. Putting good film out there, that's what this thing is about. We didn't get the outcome that we wanted, yeah, and that's squarely on us as an organization as a whole. We lost games as players, as coaches all as one. Games we want back we can't go get them back so now we have to go out here and compete and have some pride about ourselves."
Zimmer also said "no" when asked whether he planned to play more rookies against the Bears to give players valuable NFL experience. That includes quarterback Kellen Mond, who saw one series against the Packers in relief of backup Sean Mannion, who was dealing with hand cramps in the fourth quarter.
Following the loss, Zimmer said Sunday night that he was "not particularly" interested in giving Mond an extended look in a no-stakes game against Chicago because "I see him every day" at practice. The Vikings used a third-round pick to draft Mond last April with the intention of him serving as Cousins' backup.
Instead, Mannion was brought in before the season to be Cousins' No. 2 while Mond was inactive the first 15 weeks. It wasn't until Mannion got COVID-19 ahead of a loss to the Rams that Mond was finally active on a game day and served as Cousins' backup. Despite not practicing last week while on the reserve list, Mannion was chosen to start over Mond when the Vikings faced a must-win situation in Green Bay.
"Kellen has worked hard every day and done a great job helping our room and contributing on the practice field and in the meeting room and giving good input week to week," Cousins said.
Cousins is under contract in Minnesota through the 2022 season and carries a $45 million cap hit on the final year of his deal. As speculation swirls entering Week 18 that Cousins, Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman could all be on the move after another lost season, the quarterback reiterated his desire to remain with the Vikings.
"I'm just focused on the Bears on Sunday," Cousins said. "I've got a full day today, full day the next few days to get ready for them. Certainly want to be a Minnesota Viking for the rest of my career."
A win over the Bears on Sunday would give Zimmer 72 as the head coach of the Vikings since he was hired in 2014, an average of about 9.1 a season (including ties as half a win).
Zimmer ranks 17th in winning percentage among active head coaches, while currently averaging 8.9 wins per season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The 16 coaches above him average at least nine wins per season.
Cook voiced his support for Zimmer and the Vikings' organization when asked whether the franchise has reached its ceiling or can expect to win next season with this same group.
"I've been here with these same people for the last five years," Cook said. "I had different coordinators every year, but my head coach and everything, I've been with these people five years, fighting and trying to win games, lost games, good times, bad times. I wouldn't want to go to war with nobody else but these people.
"So whatever the future holds for everybody, I can't picture it. I don't know what's going to happen. But I know I love these people in this building, that surround me. They support me so much and they back me so much, in everything I do. That's the love I got for them, and I love these coaches around me. That's all I got to say."