This offseason, the Vikings have put themselves in a position to legitimately contend for a Super Bowl. Along the way, they will have to face perennial powerhouses like the Ravens, Seahawks, Packers, and the reigning champion Buccaneers. However, Minnesota’s biggest opponent in 2021 could be themselves.
As of now, Minnesota has the lowest vaccination rate in the league. Currently, the Vikings own a lowly 64.5% fully vaccinated roster. While that number should rise in the coming days as a few more players get fully dosed, they will remain among the league cellar.
Their current state looks even worse when you compare it to the rest of the league. As a whole, the NFL has 90% of its players vaccinated. That gap between Minnesota and the field leaves a LOT of room for problems.
In fact, Head Coach Mike Zimmer has already voiced his frustration with the team. “I just don’t understand,” he said. “I think we could put this thing to bed if we all do this. But it is what it is.”
Zimmer’s comments come after the Vikings lost three of their QBs, including Kirk Cousins, due to a positive Covid test. After Kellen Mond received his positive test, Cousins and second-year Nate Stanley were forced to quarantine. Presumably, this means that Cousins and Stanley are not vaccinated under the NFL’s new rules.
With three of their four QBs shelved for over a week as the season looms ahead, the Vikings grabbed Case Cookus and Danny Etling to get them through camp. However, the threat of losing your starting QB during the season is a dangerous one.
When questioned about that very scenario, Zimmer stated that he “won’t be happy we could’ve prevented this. Like I said, these guys, some of them just won’t do it.”
I have seen a lot of people comment on Zimmer’s statements, saying how he is trying to enforce his beliefs on his players. However, Zimmer is simply doing his job. According to many analysts, his job may be on the line if the Vikings have another down season.
The quickest way for another disappointing year is to have a star player miss key games due to a positive test or contact tracing. Not to mention, the NFL’s new rules on the tight restrictions that teams that fall below the vaccine threshold (85%), will make for a much more difficult path for the Vikings each week.
Like it or not, having a fully or mostly vaccinated squad gives any team a competitive advantage over those that are not. If this trend keeps up, the Vikings will be two steps behind their opponent every time they step on the field.
Zimmer and Spielman know how big this season could be. Why else would they spend money like never before? Why else would they finally address longstanding issues with the team (looking at you OL and WR3)? This squad has a chance to finally break it open for Minnesota.
The vaccine conundrum only hurts that cause. Some of you may applaud these players for exercising their freedom of choice. While perfectly in their rights to refuse the vaccine, you cannot neglect the hole that the Vikings are in.
They choose to put their livelihoods and health on the line each time they line up for a snap. Whether they do it out of love for the game, the fame, or the massive paycheck, they risk their bodies every day. Keep in mind, the research on CTE is growing and evolving each day, much like the research on Covid.
Regardless of what happens in the coming months, unless the team has a sudden uptick in vaccinations, it could be tough sledding in 2021. Perhaps Michael Irvin said it best, “If you’re not one of them teams [at the threshold], are you really thinking about winning a championship?”