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Vikings' Kirk Cousins determined to finish minicamp strong after frustrating day

Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) stretches out before workouts at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center in Eagan, Minn., on Wednesday, May 30 2018. John Autey / St. Paul Pioneer Press

EAGAN, Minn. — Quarterback Kirk Cousins has been smiling plenty since he signed a three-year, $84 million contract with the Vikings in March. But he wasn't grinning when he came off the practice field Wednesday, June 13.

During third-down, red-zone drills late on the second day of a three-day minicamp, Cousins threw two interceptions in three plays.

"I was pretty salty walking off the field," he said. "I'm really frustrated. I do not want to walk into the summer with a bad taste in my mouth about practice, so hopefully we can finish really strong (Thursday) and be feeling good going into the summer.

"Even one bad decision in practice kind of bothers me all afternoon, and I can be a bit of a grouch when I go home."

Overall, it's been a good spring for Cousins, although Wednesday's troubles show there is still work to be done.

His first interception was snagged by safety Jayron Kearse, who was covering Stefon Diggs in the left corner of the end zone. His second was grabbed by linebacker Anthony Barr, who cut in front of Kyle Rudolph at the goal line.

"On the first one, I just couldn't get all the way through the throw, so the ball died on me," Cousins said. "The second one, I was testing things a little bit and trying to see what I could get away with, and I learned pretty quickly that I can't get away with that throw.

"Some of the beauty of (spring drills) is that you can test and experiment. ... You've just got to learn from them.''

That's what organized team activities and minicamp are all about. Cousins has been working to get on the same page with offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, also new to the Vikings. Now, they have more material to go over.

"One of the main things you need to play quarterback in the National Football League is short-term memory," DeFilippo said after the practice. "If you don't have that, it's going to be really, really hard to move on from it to the next play. In the headset, I was just telling him, 'Next play. Next play.' We're going to go through rough stretches at some point in this season. ... That's real-life football."

Interceptions have been an issue at times for Cousins. He threw 13 last season with Washington to rank seventh in the NFL, and 36 in the past three years overall.

There's time for Cousins to iron out kinks before the regular-season opener Sept. 9 against San Francisco at U.S. Bank Stadium. After the minicamp concludes Thursday, the Vikings will be off until training camp begins in late July.

Cousins showed up for spring drills April 16, and DeFilippo said he's had a strong two months learning his system. Despite the interceptions, DeFilippo liked much of what he saw Wednesday.

"The blitz period, the defense was bringing the heat pretty good," the coach said. "(Cousins) did some subtle things that tells you he's really understanding the little intricacies of what we're trying to accomplish."

Since becoming the Redskins' regular starter in 2015, Cousins has passed for more than 4,000 yards and 25 touchdowns each season. He threw for 4,093 yards and 27 TDs last season under offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh. His previous big seasons under coordinator Sean McVay.

Now, Cousins has yet another coordinator.

"I was pleasantly surprised with the rapport,'' Cousins said. "There was a fair amount of carryover from what I've done in the past, so that was a good first step. Whenever I did suggest something, (DeFilippo has) just been a great listener. He's been a great communicator, and I love his passion for the game."

After the Vikings conclude minicamp, Cousins vows to have a "healthy balance" of work and time off before training camp. He said he will pace himself after doing too much "grinding" last summer.

Whatever the approach, Cousins vows to be ready to go when the regular season arrives.

"Just keep stacking a brick every day and believe that by the end of August or early September, we'll be where we need to be," he said.

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