Cousins has gone from denial to grief to full immersion in rehab; his future with Vikings can wait

EAGAN, Minn. (AP) — In the first moments after Kirk Cousins fell to the grass in Green Bay during a seemingly routine sack, Minnesota's once-indestructible quarterback figured he just had a sprained ankle.

As Vikings center Garrett Bradbury helped him up, Cousins tried to stand and felt an eerie sensation of the ground sinking underneath him.

OK, he thought, so there was no feeling in his right foot. Perhaps he had some nerve damage. He still ought to be able to play through that, right?

Cousins' naivete, or denial, quickly gave way to reality once he hopped off the field and the medical staff tended to him on the bench. His Achilles tendon was torn, an automatic end to his season with the Vikings already midway through their schedule.

“I was Googling the five stages of grief, maybe even that night, trying to understand that better,” Cousins said. “I don’t think it’s stages. I think all five just swirl all at once.”

Cousins is nearly three weeks removed from that fateful plant of his right foot at Lambeau Field on Oct. 29, when Minnesota's predictably unpredictable season took one of several dramatic turns. He recently had his post-surgical cast removed, and he's carefully walking around in a bulky gray boot.

His future with the Vikings was already unclear with his contract set to expire next spring, and now the question of whether he'll return is even more complicated.

“Those conversations will happen, but it’s just not time yet. We’ve got so much to focus on with this season. The guys are playing so well, and that’s really where the attention needs to be,” Cousins said Friday in his first meeting with reporters since the injury. “You can want a lot of things. It doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. I keep an open mind, but I certainly would love for that to be the case.”

Joshua Dobbs has taken over the job after rookie Jaren Hall suffered a concussion early in his first start. The seven-year veteran, who was acquired from Arizona in an emergency trade two days after Cousins was hurt, has become one of the best feel-good stories in the league by keeping the Vikings' offense rolling despite minimal time learning the scheme. Minnesota has won five straight games, three with Cousins and two without.

“I’m still mad. I’m still disappointed. But then you go right back to all the things you know. I can’t change it. You’ve got to move forward. That’s what we sign up for when we step between the white lines,” Cousins said. “I’m fortunate to have come this far and not had a surgery in football, so you’re also grateful too. I just believe there’s more to the story up ahead.”

Cousins has been a constant presence in quarterback meetings and provided input on the game plan as requested by coach Kevin O'Connell. He goes home to continue his rehab work once practice begins. Eventually, he'll join the Vikings on the sideline during games.

For now? Cousins is in full “one day at a time” mode.

“I think I’m going to be saying it for a while,” he said.

The day before his surgery, Cousins solicited advice on the phone from Aaron Rodgers, whose first season with the New York Jets got off to a jarring start when he tore his left Achilles tendon four snaps into his debut. Rodgers has vowed to return to the field later this year, providing Cousins some additional encouragement. Since there's no chance of playing again this season, he can also benefit from not being tempted to rush.

There's plenty of time for reflection, too, including back to that day when he was riding away on the cart confronting the harsh reality of a major injury.

“You have a lot of thoughts going through your head, and one of them was, ‘Is this last time I play football?’ And now a couple weeks removed, I say, ‘No, it’s not going to be,’ but when those thoughts are going through your head you realize the potential routes that this could go,” Cousins said. “So I’m excited to write this next chapter and see what God wants to do with it.”