EAGAN, Minn. -- Soon after he signed with the Minnesota 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. I’ve been watching him for a minute now,’’ Westbrook said after Wednesday’s first practice of training camp. “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,’’ he said.

Westbrook was lost for the season during an Oct. 25 game. His goal was to return before some thought he might.

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“I worked my tail off,’’ he said.


‘Skol’ chants — and fans — return to Minnesota Vikings practice

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

Although NFL players are not required to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, Cousins expressed confidence that by following protocols, the Vikings won’t have any games canceled this fall.

“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, saying protocols required for unvaccinated players will make it much more difficult for them this season.

Adam Thielen, Harrison Smith and Sheldon Richardson said last month they had not been vaccinated. At that time, Cousins said he considered his “medical history private,” and declined Wednesday to reveal his status.

“I don’t expect (the protocols) to be an issue for us,” said linebacker Eric Kendricks, who has been vaccinated. “We’re a pretty disciplined team.’’

Dennison’s blueprint

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 this offseason in Miami with Cleveland receiver Jarvis Landry and, at times, Buffalo receiver Stefon Diggs. … 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.