MINNEAPOLIS — Kirk Cousins said he’s sensitive to concerns about COVID-19 and believes in the importance of wearing a mask to help protect others, as the Minnesota Vikings quarterback tried to clarify comments on a newly released podcast that came across as dismissive of the coronavirus.

In a wide-ranging interview for an NFL-themed podcast recorded about six weeks ago but not released until Wednesday, Cousins said his worry on a scale of one to 10 of being infected is “about a 0.000001.” He said he’s confident in his health, fitness and exposure level as safeguards.

“I’m going to go about my daily life. If I get it, I’m going to ride it out. I’m going to let nature do its course, a survival of the fittest kind of approach, and just say, ‘If it knocks me out, it knocks me out.’ I’m going to be OK,” Cousins told host Kyle Brandt for an episode on The Ringer Podcast Network. Brandt is also an NFL Network morning show host.

“Even if I die, I die. I kind of have peace about that,” Cousins said. “That’s really where I fall on it, so my opinion on wearing a mask is really about being respectful to other people. It really has nothing to do with my personal thoughts.”

On a video conference call with reporters several hours after the podcast was posted, Cousins pointed to his Christian faith as the source of his peace. He said he realizes why others in high-risk categories of older age or underlying conditions must take more precaution.

“I just don’t have a great deal of personal fear surrounding contracting the virus,” he said. “Again, that’s unique to my circumstances, unique to my situation, a lot of factors that are unique to me and would be extremely different to any number of other people.”

The online backlash was strong enough to prompt the Vikings to move the 32-year-old’s regularly scheduled media session up one day. Cousins said again he has no personal concern of catching the virus but apologized for the cavalier take he delivered on the podcast.

“What I wanted to say then, what I would echo again now, is that while the virus does not give me a great amount of personal fear, there’s still great reason for me to engage in wearing a mask and social distancing and washing my hands as frequently as I can and following protocols that have been set in place obviously to be respectful and considerate of other people,” Cousins said.

Regardless of anyone’s views on the virus, all NFL players, coaches and staff, of course, are subject to strict protocols at team headquarters this year. Cousins said himself on Twitter a couple of weeks before reporting to training camp that “health and safety has to come first.”

WASHINGTON: Coach Ron Rivera announced Dwayne Haskins will be the starting quarterback for Week 1 against Philadelphia.

It’s not a surprising development but a confirmation that the 2019 first-round pick did enough to earn the job under Rivera’s new regime. Haskins got the nod over Kyle Allen, whom Rivera knew well from his time with Carolina, and veteran Alex Smith, who’s less than two years removed from breaking his right leg.

“Dwayne’s lived up to everything we talked about in January,” Rivera said. “He deserves the opportunity. He’s going to get the opportunity, and he’s going to get my support.”

SAINTS: Running back Alvin Kamara returned to practice  after declining to take the field in recent days because of his apparent dissatisfaction with progress on a contract extension.

CHARGERS: Safety Derwin James will miss the season after having surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his right knee, the team announced.

James had surgery on Tuesday after he sustained the injury during a scrimmage on Sunday. It is the second time in five seasons that James has had a season end due to a knee injury. He tore the meniscus in his left knee as a sophomore at Florida State in 2016 during the team’s second game and missed the rest of the year.

BENGALS: Running back Joe Mixon signed a four-year, $48 million contract extension through the 2024 season, keeping him with a Cincinnati team that took a chance on him.

The Bengals drafted Mixon in the second round in 2017 out of Oklahoma, where he was suspended for punching a woman in the face. The Bengals drew a backlash with the choice, prompting owner Mike Brown to acknowledge they were “taking a risk” on Mixon because he’s so talented. Mixon has avoided trouble and emerged as one of the NFL’s top running backs. He was entering the final season on his original contract.

FALCONS: Atlanta added to its depth at quarterback by signing Kyle Lauletta, a former fourth-round pick of the New York Giants, who could be an option as the third quarterback behind starter Matt Ryan and veteran backup Matt Schaub.

The Falcons also are seeking another quarterback for the expanded practice squad after waiving Danny Etling. Lauletta, who played collegiately at Richmond, was taken by the Giants with the 108th overall pick in the 2018 draft. He went 0 for 5 with an interception in his only appearance at quarterback, also appearing in one other game as a blocker.

FOUR MEMBERS of Congress sent a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell questioning the league’s formula for making concussion settlement payments to Black former players.

Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Representatives Yvette D. Clarke (D-N.Y.) and Maxine Waters, (D-Calif.) signed the letter seeking explanation of a race-based formula for payments, how it was developed and has been used.

“If these allegations are true,” the letter said, referring to a lawsuit filed last month against the NFL, “the algorithm used to modify the results of your cognitive evaluations appear to have the effect of denying Black players – a historically disadvantaged and legally protected group – compensation to which they would otherwise be entitled. This would raise serious questions about the NFL’s commitment to racial justice and compliance with the Federal law that mandates equal protection.”

Wyden, Booker, Clarke and Waters urged the NFL to stop using the formula immediately.

“We urge you to immediately halt the use of any racially based algorithms in the cognitive impairment evaluation until it can be determined, through a full independent review, that they do not have the effect of depriving Black players compensation they are owed,” they wrote. “In the meantime, we also urge you to review Black players’ previously denied claims to evaluate whether or not the denial was based on race.”


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