When Matt LaFleur was the Redskins’ quarterbacks coach in 2012, the team already had acquired what it thought was its franchise QB when it traded up to select Baylor Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III with the second pick in the draft. But when Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins was still on the board in the fourth round, Washington’s coaches liked him too much to pass him up.

“We got a chance to know him a little bit throughout the Senior Bowl process,” LaFleur recalled Wednesday. “He is so conscientious, and just a hard worker. His arm talent is as good as anybody’s. He is a natural thrower; he’s fearless in the pocket. We just combined his physical skills with the type of guy he is, and we thought he was for sure a guy that was going to be a star in this league. He’s proved it.”

LaFleur, who was Cousins’ first QB coach in the NFL, has stayed in touch with him since moving on to Notre Dame and three NFL teams — the Falcons, Rams and Titans — before becoming the Packers’ head coach last winter.

When LaFleur coaches his first regular-season game at Lambeau Field, he’ll try to slow down the quarterback he helped bring into the NFL. Cousins will be trying to win for the first time in Green Bay.

Tom Baker for Star Tribune
VideoVideo (05:42): Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins knows Minnesota must keep the Packers off balance, and despite his relationship and respect for Green Bay coach Matt LaFleur, he says they're coming for them.

“I’ve really kept in touch with him, probably even more than I thought I would through the years,” Cousins said. “I think the world of him as a person, as a coach. I owe a great deal to him when it comes to any production I’ve had in this league. It’s a unique deal that he’s coaching our rival, because in one sense, you want to pull for him and root for him. But on the other hand, you’ve got to make sure he doesn’t one-up you.”

Harris honored

Vikings safety Anthony Harris was named the NFC’s defensive player of the week on Wednesday, after he intercepted two passes and recovered a fumble in the Vikings’ 28-12 victory over the Falcons on Sunday.

“We tend to look at these awards as team awards,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “I think on two of the interceptions that he had, we had great pressure on the quarterback. But Anthony continues to get better. He’s a smart guy. He plays sudden, because I think he’s got good vision. He does a nice job understanding his role within the scheme and within the play call of that particular play, so I think that helps.”

It is the fourth consecutive year a Vikings player won NFC Player of the Week honors in Week 1. Three of those players — Eric Kendricks in 2016, Harrison Smith in 2018 and now Harris — have been defenders. Quarterback Sam Bradford won the award on offense in 2017.

Alexander, Elflein out

The Vikings were without Mackensie Alexander in their first practice of the week, after the cornerback dislocated his right elbow Sunday. It would seem hard to imagine the Vikings would have Alexander available against the Packers, though Zimmer wouldn’t concede the point when asked about Alexander’s injury.

“Who says I’m going to be without him?” Zimmer said. When he was then asked if there was a chance Alexander could play Sunday, Zimmer responded, “We’ll see.”

Guard Pat Elflein also missed practice because of a knee injury. With Elflein out, Dakota Dozier did first-team work at left guard during the portion of practice open to reporters.

Vikings re-sign Dillon

After releasing tight end Brandon Dillon on Tuesday to make room for the return of offensive lineman Brett Jones, the Vikings brought the rookie back to their practice squad once he cleared waivers Wednesday. The team released kicker Chase McLaughlin from the practice squad to make room for Dillon, who had made the Vikings’ initial 53-man roster after a solid training camp.