Jul. 29—Soon after he signed with the Vikings last weekend, Dede Westbrook looked at his phone and got a surprise. The wide receiver had received a text message from quarterback Kirk Cousins, welcoming him to the team.
"I thought it was crazy because obviously Kirk has been in the league for a while," Westbrook said after Wednesday's first practice of training camp. "I've been watching him for a minute now. Obviously, for me to get that text message saying, 'Hey, it's Kirk Cousins,' he's excited to work with me, my heart kind of dropped. I'm excited to be out there with him too, building that chemistry."
That process began during a two-hour practice at the TCO Performance Center. Westbrook, however, was only around for an early part.
Coming off a torn ACL suffered last October with Jacksonville, Westbrook is being eased back into action. He did some individual drills and caught some punts, then took the rest of the practice off.
"I'm just eight months out of surgery, obviously, and so everything is just building back up to where I need to be at," said Westbrook, who signed a one-year deal with the Vikings for the minimum of $990,000 and got a signing bonus of $137,500.
Westbrook was lost for the season during an Oct. 25 game. His goal was to return before some thought he might.
"I worked my tail off," he said.
The Vikings are looking for Westbrook to perhaps be their punt returner in addition to providing depth at receiver.
"We have a lot of talent in that room, and Dede adds onto it," said receiver Justin Jefferson. "We have a lot of fast guys, a lot of guys that can make plays."
Cousins said he expects to "get on the same page quickly" with Westbrook.
COUSINS AND PROTOCOLS
Cousins expressed confidence in the Vikings being able to follow NFL vaccination protocols.
"We're going to follow them and be diligent with it and make sure that we're able to play all of these games as they should be played," Cousins said.
Head coach Mike Zimmer wants all his players to be vaccinated for the coronavirus, having said protocols will make it much more difficult this season for players who aren't vaccinated. Unvaccinated players will be designated inside the training facility, where they must wear masks. They will have to test daily and will have social-distancing restraints.
Vikings players Adam Thielen, Harrison Smith and Sheldon Richardson said in June they had not been vaccinated. Cousins said then he considered his "medical history private." He did not comment when asked Wednesday if at any point he will reveal his vaccination status.
"We have protocols and everybody's abiding by it," said linebacker Eric Kendricks, who is vaccinated. "But I don't expect it to be really an issue for us. We're a pretty disciplined team."
Running back Dalvin Cook is happy Rick Dennison has remained with the Vikings. Dennison, who has declined to be vaccinated, was named senior offensive advisor because he could no longer serve as offensive line coach/run game coordinator.
"Coach Dennison is a great coach," Cook said. "He built a great foundation here, so we know exactly how the blueprint is supposed to be."
Dennison can't interact with the Vikings players in person. Cook said he's "looking forward" to working with new line coach Phil Rauscher.
Rookie Christian Darrisaw (groin) didn't practice and Rashod Hill was the first-team left tackle, as was the case in spring drills. Dakota Dozier was first-team right guard in the spring but shared that role Wednesday with Oli Udoh. ... Nose tackle Michael Pierce, who recently suffered a left calf injury while training, was able to do a little practice work. ... Jefferson said he worked out in the offseason in Miami with Cleveland receiver Jarvis Landry and, at times, with former Minnesota receiver Stefon Diggs, now with Buffalo. He said he was impressed with Diggs' "work ethic (in) seeing how he trains." ... Cook said he is praying for Olympic gymnast Simone Biles and respects her decision to "take a step back and focus" on her mental health.