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March Mania

Kirk Cousins on high expectations for Vikings: Bring them on

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) throws a pass during a June 2019 minicamp practice at TCO Performance Center in Eagan, Minn. Harrison Barden / USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS — If anyone wants to pick the Vikings to win the Super Bowl, Kirk Cousins would be all for it.

The quarterback said Wednesday, July 31, he doesn’t mind in the slightest when high expectations are placed on his team. Last season, the Vikings were a pick by many to make the Super Bowl before they fizzled, going 8-7-1 and missing the playoffs.

“This is professional football,’’ Cousins said after training camp practice. “I hope we have expectations. I hope that people on the outside say, ‘Boy, they better be good this year or else.’ Is that pressure? Yeah, but we’re professionals. We’re living a dream, and we should have pressure on us, and there should be expectations.”

Cousins doesn’t mind being asked about high expectations.

“Let’s go play football and go win games and set a standard that’s a really high standard,’’ he said. “If having a high standard produces expectations that we have to talk about, that’s a good problem to have.’’

For now, though, Cousins is still being asked plenty about Minnesota falling apart last season.

“I wish it was Sept. 8,’’ he said of the opener against Atlanta. “It’s been frustrating all offseason talking about how we need to be better and how we didn’t deliver.’’

At least Cousins delivered Wednesday. During red-zone drills, he threw four touchdown passes, including a nifty one that tight end Kyle Rudolph grabbed at the back of the end zone. Cousins said perhaps he should have thrown more to Rudolph last season.

“The more you do it, the more you see it, the more you realize that’s a strength of his, and I guess I look back and regret a little bit not doing more of that last year,’’ Cousins said.

What Cousins did plenty last season was throw to wide receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs.

“I think we did a good job getting them the football,’’ Cousins said. “I think maybe the challenge at times was maybe we did too good of a job getting them the football, and it made it tough to move the ball elsewhere because it was so focused on those two.’’

Zimmer sizes up DBS

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, a former secondary coach, never has hesitated to criticize his defensive backs.

Zimmer last March was critical of cornerback Xavier Rhodes, saying he needs to “play up to his ability level (and) contract’’ after a season in which his streak ended of making two straight Pro Bowls. Zimmer said Wednesday that Rhodes, entering the second year of a five-year, $70 million extension, is looking good in camp.

“He’s practiced really well, better than he did in the spring,’’ Zimmer said. “I’ve been really happy with what he’s done.’’

Zimmer has been critical of cornerback Mackensie Alexander, entering his fourth season. He said Alexander has turned it around since once being hard to coach.

“He’s probably changed as far as work ethic and attitude and everything more than maybe any guy I’ve coached,’’ Zimmer said. “He’s just completely bought in to everything we’re doing, asking the right questions, doing everything, taking extra reps on the field. He’s turned the corner that way from his rookie year.’’

Smith's dad visits

Former NFL tight end Irv Smith Sr., saw his son, rookie tight end Irv Smith Jr., practice with Minnesota for the first time.

“This is a dream come true to be able to come out here and to watch my son,’’ said Smith Sr. “I was inside the facility, and as I was walking out here onto the field, my son runs by and gives me a big hug. It was cool.’’

Smith Sr. played in the NFL from 1993-99.


After missing four practices, wide receiver Jeff Badet returned Wednesday on a limited basis. Defensive tackle Curtis Cothran missed a second straight practice and defensive end Stephen Weatherly left early with an apparent injury. … Cornerback Holton Hill, suspended for the first eight games, continues to work mostly with the deep reserves. “I’m not worried about Holton Hill,’’ said Zimmer, continuing to express disgust at his NFL suspensions. … Kicker Dan Bailey was 5 of 6 on field goals, including a make from 52 yards and being wide right from 41.