Quarterback Kellen Mond excited about Vikings’ night practice a year after testing positive
At last summer’s night practice during training camp, Jake Browning was the only quarterback to suit up.
The Vikings will hold their annual night practice before fans on Monday, and it’s expected there will be more than one quarterback in uniform.
At last summer’s night practice during training camp, Jake Browning was the only quarterback to suit up. Earlier that day, Kellen Mond, then an unvaccinated rookie, tested positive and was placed on the COVID-19 reserve list for 10 days. And starter Kirk Cousins and Nate Stanley, who both also were unvaccinated, went on the COVID list for five days as close contacts.
On Monday night, Cousins, Mond and Sean Mannion are all expected to show their stuff before fans at TCO Stadium in Eagan. And on Sunday, Mond looked back at July 31, 2021, when the Vikings were left with one quarterback.
“We were allowed to come in a bit late that morning, so I slept in,’’ Mond said. “Because I was unvaccinated, I had to test every day. But when I came in that morning, I felt great. My COVID symptoms hadn’t hit yet but then I ended up popping positive, and I knocked out Kirk and Nate. It was a shock. I was feeling good, and I popped positive.”
Mond called it “ridiculous” that Browning ended up being the only quarterback available that night. The Vikings did for their next practice, two days later on Aug. 2, pick up quarterbacks Case Cookus and Danny Etling for short stints. Cousins and Stanley returned Aug. 5, and Mond was back Aug. 10.
Browning was waived at the end of the preseason, and Stanley spent the season on injured reserve before being waived last month. Mannion was re-signed at the end of the preseason to spend a third season as Cousins’ backup.
In an interview in May with the Pioneer Press, Mond said having COVID resulted in him losing about 10 pounds and a lot of strength for the remainder of a season in which he played just three snaps in one game. But during the offseason Mond, who remains unvaccinated, regained the weight, and he’s excited about how he has been doing under first-year coach Kevin O’Connell.
“It’s been great,’’ he said. “Coming in, my whole thing was just to play my game within the confinements of this offense and go out and make plays and take care of the ball and make great throws and just allow the playmakers to make plays. I think I’ve done a very good job, and I’ll only continue to grow.”
As a rookie under former coach Mike Zimmer, Mond worked only with the third string. In the first two weeks of camp, he has split second-team reps 50-50 with Mannion in the battle for the backup role.
“Last year, I got the third group, which was kind of our developmental type of group,” Mond said. “But this year it’s great. I’m able to build confidence and build comfort with the new stuff we’re adding.”
For Monday’s 7:15 p.m. practice, Mond expects it to be “a scrimmage-like atmosphere” and the Vikings will play some “situational football.”
“I would think there will be unscripted stuff,” Mond said. “Usually, you get a script and you’re able to know things that you run the following day.”
Fans should get a good look at the continued competition between Mond and Mannion.
“I’ve been really happy with how I’ve been playing,” said Mannion, an eight-year veteran. “I’ve been trying to put my best foot forward every day. I feel I’ve been accurate passing the ball, and getting the ball out of my hands quickly.”
The battle will heat up even more when Minnesota opens the exhibition season next Sunday at Las Vegas. Mond feels much more comfortable entering the preseason compared to last year, when he looked shaky in a 33-6 loss to Denver in the opener as well as in the other two exhibition games.
“I’m super excited about the preseason,’’ he said. “Last year, I came off from being sick and losing a bunch of weight and was kind of thrown into the Denver game with, like, three practices. So having the entire training camp going into the games, I’m feeling great about the offense and really good about where I’m at.”
In other words, what a difference a year makes from the last time the Vikings had a night practice during training camp.
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