Vikings' Kirk Cousins has torn Achilles, to miss rest of season

EAGAN, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings remained in active discussions Monday about the best way to move forward following the loss of quarterback Kirk Cousins, who suffered a season-ending tear of his right Achilles tendon in Sunday's 24-10 victory over the Green Bay Packers.

An MRI confirmed the tear, the Vikings announced Monday afternoon. But speaking shortly thereafter, coach Kevin O'Connell declined to name a starter for Sunday's game at the Atlanta Falcons.

He indicated the team would add a quarterback in the next day or so, and would not rule out the possibility that the newcomer could ultimately become their starter for the bulk of the season.

"We're still working through that," O'Connell said.

Rookie Jaren Hall replaced Cousins on Sunday at Lambeau Field, completing 3 of 4 passes for 23 yards while also losing a fumble on a sack. O'Connell said he called passing plays for Hall in what would otherwise have been a run-heavy portion of the game largely because he wanted to see how Hall would perform, knowing even then that Cousins was almost certainly lost for the season.

"I did want to see Jaren go in the game and function," O'Connell said. "A lot of the feedback that I got from guys in the huddle is that he was outstanding calling plays. Cadence, snap counts, center-quarterback exchange, those are all things that go through your mind. ... I was using some of those opportunities to show Jaren my confidence in him, but also give him some opportunities to play quarterback.

"... We'll continue Jaren's process of getting him ready to go each and every week, if he ends up being the guy."

Veteran backup Nick Mullens, who has been on injured reserve since Oct. 11 because of a back injury, is eligible to return as early as Week 10. O'Connell said he did not yet know if Mullens will be ready at that point. The team's only other quarterback is Sean Mannion, who is on the practice squad.

O'Connell and general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah have been working on what they've called a "competitive rebuild" since being hired in January 2022, an approach designed to overhaul the team's roster while staying in playoff contention. The Vikings are 4-4 after an 0-3 start, and they have the NFL's seventh-easiest schedule the rest of the way, according to ESPN's Football Power Index FPI.

Their unique position, O'Connell said with a smile, has led to suggestions and pitches sent to his cell phone that "you wouldn't believe." Asked if it made sense for the Vikings to use the resources it would take to acquire a new starter, O'Connell said it depended on the player and his potential to remain with the team beyond this season.

Cousins' contract will expire after this season.

"I think there's a lot of scenarios to that," O'Connell said. "What are the resources? I think the conversations that lead you down that road help clearly define the answer to that question, based upon is it a short term only thing? Is it something that could be more long term? Is it something that truly is an upgrade versus just the sheer dealing with the reality of a tough situation right now?

"That's what we have to work through, and that goes back to my communication with Kwesi, his staff, our coaching staff and just the fact that we're all synced up and we understand that we signed up to live in this dual world, that sometimes can feel like it's competing against each other a little bit. That's where you've got have to just continue to have dialogue, communicate, and ultimately make the best decision collectively, and more often than not, that's worked out for us so far."

Playing in the final season of a contract that will void in March, Cousins entered Week 8 leading the NFL in touchdown passes (16) and was second in passing yards (2,057).

He suffered the injury in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 24-10 victory against the Green Bay Packers. As he attempted to step up in the pocket, his right leg buckled and he was sacked by Packers defensive tackle Kenny Clark.

Cousins hopped off the field without putting weight on his right leg. He had completed 23 of 31 passes for 274 yards and two touchdowns prior to the injury.

Hall finished the game, but O'Connell said veteran backup Nick Mullens (back) is eligible to be activated from injured reserve as soon as Week 10. The Vikings have also had veteran Sean Mannion on their practice squad since Mullens' injury.

Such conversations, standard for many NFL teams, have been foreign for the Vikings since signing Cousins in 2018. He has missed only two games over that span, one in 2019 when the Vikings were resting their starters for the playoffs and the other in 2021 because of a positive test for COVID-19. His 88 starts with the Vikings are tied for the most in the NFL over that period.

"It was just weird," center Garrett Bradbury said of watching Cousins limp off. "Whenever the Vikings are out there, Kirk's out there."

Cousins' star turn on the Netflix docuseries "Quarterback," along with what he has called his "dad swag" style, has lifted him this season from one of the NFL's most mocked players to one of its most cherished. The series not only provided insight into his family life and sense of humor, but also demonstrated the work he does to stay on the field every week.

"You see it day in and day out, how much he takes care of his body," right tackle Brian O'Neill said. "He lives and breathes being durable and out there and available for us. It's surprising and it hurts. People don't understand how much he means to us."

Said tight end T.J. Hockenson: "There's nothing really can say about it. I just love Kirk to death. I love his family. I love him. I love everything about him. To see a guy like that go down is always tough."