On a night when $31 million quarterback Kirk Cousins and two of his three backups were unavailable because of COVID-19 protocols, $660,000 quarterback Jake Browning wowed 4,285 fans who paid 10 bucks a head to see the Vikings' Saturday night practice at TCO stadium.
"I wonder if we can get a first-round pick for Jake," one Vikings employee quipped toward the end of practice as fans cheered and teammates doused Browning with water.
The salary cap-friendly evening saw Browning throw every pass after warmups ended. Quarterbacks coach Andrew Janocko, a former backup at Pitt, helped Browning out a bit by slinging some left-handed darts in warmups.
Browning, a third-year pro who's never played a regular-season game, completed 25 of 36 passes in 11 on 11 drills, including two drops and a spike to stop the clock. He was 3 of 5 on deep passes, including a completion to Justin Jefferson over Cameron Dantzler inside the 5-yard line during the situational portion of practice.
In that situational drill, the Vikings trailed 17-16 with 2:18 left and the ball on the opponent's 40. Browning went 4 for 4, including a 2-point conversion to Irv Smith Jr. to take a 24-17 lead with 1:50 left.
Browning left plenty of time for, um, Browning to score. Taking over the second-team offense, Browning completed just 4 of 9 passes, spiking the ball once and finishing with two deep incompletions into the end zone.
The Jake Browning Show was created when rookie Kellen Mond, who has been vaccinated, tested positive. Cousins and backup Nate Stanley also were sacked as unvaccinated players who had close contact with Mond.
"Jake's really smart," coach Mike Zimmer said before the practice. "And he's vaccinated, so that helps to be the backup. … He's out there, he's available. It's important to be available when you play a team sport."
Here are some other camp observations from the Vikings' practice Saturday night:
- Second-year cornerback Cameron Dantzler struggled. He gave up multiple deep throws, including a fantastic grab by Adam Thielen that gained about 40 yards during individual drills.
- Rookie guard Wyatt Davis joined the list of missing players at practice. Besides Cousins, Mond and Stanley, cornerback Jeff Gladney and receiver Bisi Johnson also were not present. Gladney continues to await legal proceedings on a domestic assault charge, and Johnson suffered a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament on Friday. First-round pick Christian Darrisaw (groin) and center Cohl Cabral (undisclosed) did not practice. Receiver Dede Westbrook saw little action until fielding punts at the end of practice. Nose tackle Michael Pierce (calf) was limited and did not participate in team drills.
- It wasn't a stellar performance by kicker Greg Joseph. In the first period of the night, he clanged a 50-yarder off the right upright. He tried another from 50 and yanked it way left. He then finished the period by making a 32-yarder.