MINNEAPOLIS (AP) 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.''
The league announced four new confirmed positive tests among players and six new confirmed positives among other personnel from 58,621 tests administered to a total of 8,739 players and team personnel between Aug. 21-29. Sixty-seven players opted out of the 2020 season because of virus-related health concerns.
The Vikings, of course, are counting on their quarterback to be available for all 16 games. Even if Cousins were to be asymptomatic, an ill-timed positive test could keep him out of action.
''I find myself ordering delivery a lot more than I did last season, and I just think it's just in our team's best interest for us to be at work, go home and not try to maximize your exposure outside of those two places,'' Cousins said.