EAGAN, Minn. (AP) — Joint practices this week against the Denver Broncos have challenged Minnesota Vikings rookie quarterback Kellen Mond in his return after missing 10 days with COVID-19.
Minnesota’s other top rookie, first-round tackle Christian Darrisaw, is only falling further behind.
Darrisaw, who had a groin injury last season at Virginia Tech that necessitated core muscle surgery in January, has yet to take a turn during full-team drills. A person with knowledge of the situation, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team was not releasing details, confirmed that Darrisaw had a minor procedure Thursday by specialist Dr. William Meyers in Philadelphia.
Darrisaw will be out of action for the next few weeks.
“It was taken care of in January,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said after the practice against Denver. “We didn’t expect this.”
Minnesota drafted Darrisaw 23rd overall in the hopes he’d fill the void at left tackle after veteran Riley Reiff was released in March. Darrisaw’s mostly been an observer instead of the integral piece for the Vikings’ continued overhaul of the offensive line.
Veteran Rashod Hill, re-signed in the offseason as insurance, has been the top left tackle in Darrisaw’s absence.
Zimmer said doctors have told him Darrisaw could be ready for the season opener on Sept. 12 at Cincinnati. Even then, Darrisaw’s lack of practice likely complicates his ability to contribute early.
“I wouldn’t put a number on it,” offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak said of how much practice time Darrisaw will need when he returns. “With any player coming off an injury, they’re all different. I would say when he’s been here, he’s been really sharp and really dialed in. So, mentally, I don’t think it’ll be a problem. We’ve just got to get his physical reps and get his conditioning.”
Mond, the third-rounder who was the team’s second pick in the draft, returned to practice on Tuesday following his bout with COVID-19. He said he relates his symptoms to having the flu when he was younger. He stayed involved in meetings through video conferencing but couldn’t get on the field.
“I think just missing 10 days and just the rhythm of everything, I think COVID, I think the respiratory system of whatever, it kind of makes it hard to breathe,” Mond said. “So just coming out here and getting my weight back on and I think that’s my biggest focus.”
Mond declared himself “100%.” He wouldn’t say if he would get the vaccine now.
Zimmer has pushed for his quarterbacks to get vaccinated after Mond tested positive and Kirk Cousins and Nate Stanley had to miss practices as close contacts.
“I’ve talked to people around me who I trust,” Mond said. “I think it’s a little bit more in the conversation since I’ve had COVID-19, but I think those are personal things I’m (not) going to speak about. Like everyone is entitled to their own opinion.”
Zimmer has said it’s not realistic for Mond to play in Saturday’s preseason game against the Broncos after the missed time.
“Honestly, Mond needs to pick up the tempo,” Zimmer said Thursday. “Everything is slow-motion, a little bit. But he did make some good throws today, I thought, and moved out of the pocket a couple of times. He needs a bunch of experience, so he’s going to get a lot of reps in this preseason. Just watching him, everything needs to get sped up, faster and quicker, because it happens so much faster than he’s used to, I’m sure.”
Quarterbacks are also a big topic for Denver, which has incumbent Drew Lock and former Vikings draft pick Teddy Bridgewater competing for the top spot.
As he did as a key member of Minnesota’s front office for 14 seasons, new Broncos general manager George Paton is also hoping to find a franchise quarterback for Denver. Paton knows what he’s looking for.
“Someone that can win games on their own,” Paton said, describing his thoughts on a franchise quarterback. “When things aren’t going right, someone that can take over a game no matter what the O-line is, no matter what the receiver is, and can win games on their own.”
With the onus on him for finding that player, Paton said it doesn’t create pressure for him and he believes the Broncos might just have a franchise quarterback on the roster.
“We do think we have two really good quarterbacks here,” Paton said. “We may have that guy here. So, we’re not panicking. We’re going to build this team, the foundational players, and hopefully, we have a foundational quarterback here in our group.”
AP Pro Football Writer Dave Campbell contributed.
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