GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has never missed a game because of injury in his 12-year career, a testament to remarkable toughness as well as good fortune.
But his luck might have finally run out, putting Cousins’ season and the Vikings’ playoff hopes in jeopardy.
Cousins, 35, left in the fourth quarter of his team’s 24-10 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday with what the team believes is an Achilles tendon injury.
“We are fearing an Achilles injury,” Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell said. “The severity of that, I do not know at this point, but I do know that’s what our fear is at the moment.”
Cousins' injury comes as he was in the midst of one of his best seasons. He had thrown 18 touchdown passes with only five interceptions and had sparked a three-game winning streak that got the Vikings (4-4) back to the .500 mark.
Jaren Hall, a rookie fifth-round pick from BYU, took over after Cousins got hurt.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Kirk,” Hall said. “I’ve really got no words for it. It breaks your heart. That guy’s the leader of the team. He’s the heart and soul of the team. He’s had such a great season to this point.”
Hall lost a fumble on his first series, but regrouped from there and went 3 of 4 for 23 yards. Hall said he'll be ready if he's called upon to take over.
“I feel like I'm more than capable to do whatever's asked of me.”
The Vikings also have a couple of options with more experience.
O'Connell noted that Nick Mullens is progressing from the back issue that currently has him on injured reserve. Sean Mannion is on the Vikings' practice squad.
Mullens has gone 5-12 in 17 starts (eight with San Francisco in 2018, eight more with the 49ers in 2020 and one with Cleveland in 2021). Mannion's teams have lost each of his three career starts.
“We all just understand when anyone goes down, we all have to step our game up and next-man-up mentality of filling in that role and exceeding expectations,” running back Alexander Mattison said. "Praying for his health, praying for him, his family. We understand that we have to continue to be the Vikings. We have to go out there and make sure that we do that.”
If Cousins is out for a significant period of time, it would end a remarkable run of endurance. The only game he's missed came at Green Bay during the 2021 season because of COVID-19.
What appears to be the first major injury of Cousins' career came on a fluky play. Cousins hopped to the sideline after getting sacked for a second straight play, but it appeared the injury occurred before anyone made contact with him.
“Just some of my dialogue with Kirk, it seems like maybe his cleat might have gotten stuck in the ground or whatever it was,” O’Connell said. “It’s not probably right for me to speculate. I just know that (it was) incredibly, incredibly unfortunate in that moment.”
Now the Vikings wait for official word on the severity of Cousins' injury while bracing for the worst. Cousins' coaches and teammates both expect him to continue leading, whether he's on the field or not.
“That’s just a guy that we need around,” wide receiver Jordan Addison said. "Even though he’s down, we know he’s still going to be around. He’s still going to help the quarterback room out. He’s still going to help the defense. He’s still going to help the receivers.”
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