EAGAN, Minn. — Kirk Cousins pushed himself so hard last summer that by Washington’s second regular-season game, he felt as if his body and mind aged 10 extra weeks.
This time, even though he’s in a new place in Minnesota, his goal for the summer break is to make it a little less intense.
“I had treated July and August like it was game day,” Cousins said, reflecting on his 2017 preparation with the Redskins.
“You have to pace yourself a little bit. Because I feel a little behind the 8-ball and am learning the offense, I do need to be in it every day, but there also needs to be a healthy balance of getting away, catching your breath and getting a change of scenery, knowing that when we come back at the end of July we still have six more weeks” before the opener.
Cousins and his ability to adapt to the Vikings have been squarely in the spotlight since he signed his unprecedented $84 million fully guaranteed three-year contract three months ago, making himself the fulcrum of this franchise that’s still seeking its first Super Bowl trophy.
There have been some rough stretches, such as when he threw two interceptions during a red zone drill on Wednesday, and the defense appears predictably ahead of the offense at this stage of the 2018 team-building.
The practice time open to reporters this spring, though, has not been without sharpness or rhythm considering there’s a new quarterback trying to learn it along with everyone else.
“It’s a bit like drinking through a fire hose right now,” Cousins said.
When he’s not spending time with his wife and infant son or otherwise soaking up the vacation time from practice, Cousins will have his iPad close by as he meticulously reviews his performance in organized team activities and minicamp running the plays designed by offensive coordinator John DeFilippo.
“I was pleasantly surprised with the rapport. There was a fair amount of carry-over from what I’ve done in the past, so that was a good first step,” Cousins said. “Whenever I did suggest something, he’s just been a great listener. He’s been a great communicator, and I love his passion for the game.”
Coach Mike Zimmer sounded more than pleased by the hire he made, his third offensive coordinator in the past three seasons.
“It’s really been seamless,” Zimmer said.
DeFilippo offered a similar assessment of his supervision of Cousins, describing his work against the defense in a blitz-heavy portion of practice on Wednesday.
“He did some subtle things that tell you he’s really understanding the little intricacies of what we’re trying to accomplish,” DeFilippo said.
Cousins, of course, is not the only one with summer homework. Mike Remmers spent most of the time in the spring at right guard, with Rashod Hill taking his place at right tackle, so there’s still room for him to learn a new spot.
Terence Newman was playing some safety this week next to Harrison Smith, with Andrew Sendejo held out because of an undisclosed injury. Then there’s rookie cornerback Mike Hughes, who has made a strong first impression but must continue his development at the nickel spot by studying the nuances of a difficult position.
So the break has begun, with rookies scheduled to report for training camp on July 24 and the rest of the squad due in three days later.
“Pretty much the same thing I always tell them this time of year: Keep working, make sure they come back in not just jogging shape but in shape to plant, drive and break and get in and out of stances and things like that,” Zimmer said. “Make sure the good citizens take care of each other.”
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