For 10 days during training camp last summer, Vikings quarterback Kellen Mondt was left on the COVID-19 reserve list. When he finally returned to the team, he said he never felt that way for the rest of his rookie year.
Selected in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft out of Texas A&M, Mond was the leading candidate to serve as the Kirk Cousins’ backup. After testing positive for COVID on July 31, he lost weight due to the disease. He was unstable in three exhibition games, prompting the Vikings to re-sign Sean Manion to be the backup for the third year in a row.
“Last year, when I got COVID I hurt and lost a bunch of muscle, so a lot of ability and power and strength,” Mond said in an interview with Pioneer Press. “I had to wiggle a little bit. … I was down to like 204, 205 (pounds) and lost a lot of muscle, so it definitely set me back.
Mond, 22, said he weighed around 215 pounds before contracting COVID. He was unable to regain the weight he had lost during the season.
“It was difficult to recover during the season just because I wasn’t lifting weights,” he said. “You can’t really lift and pump iron during the season. So I didn’t really get back until this season. So right now, I’m almost 212, 213. I’ll probably play at 216.”
Mond said he’s finally back in full force, and he’s in much better shape than most of his lost rookie season. He only played in one regular-season game, when he served as Manion’s backup at Green Bay on January 2, after the Cousins were dropped for being on the COVID-19 reserve list.
Mond completed 2 of 3 passes for 5 yards in a three-and-out series in the fourth quarter of an ugly 37–10 defeat that knocked the Vikings out of the playoffs. After that game, then-Vikings coach Mike Zimmer asked if he wanted to see Mond play in the January 9 season finale against Chicago at US Bank Stadium, saying, “Not particularly. I see him every day (in practice).”
The day after the Bears game, for which Mond was inactive for the 15th time in 17 games, Zimmer was fired after the Vikings finished their eighth season with an 8–9 record. He was replaced by Kevin O’Connell. Mond said the change has been good for him, moving from defensive-minded Zimmer to offensive-minded O’Connell, a former NFL quarterback.
“I think so,” said Mond. “I think Kevin, he’s clearly a young guy and he has some youth, especially with his guilt. I think he’ll add a little bit more flavor. I think it’s something that fans have been able to get past.” The years were a bit missing. … New coach, new team. So I think a lot of people will be excited by what we have to offer this year.”
There was some excitement among fans when the Vikings drafted Mond on April 30, 2021. He accumulated impressive numbers in his four years as a starter at Texas A&M, scoring 9,661 yards and 71 touchdowns.
Then came July 31, when Mond tested positive and was out for 10 days. That day, cousin and quarterback Nate Stanley were placed on the COVID-19 reserve list for five days as a close contact because he had not been vaccinated. Going on the list, Mond was not vaccinated, saying she still hasn’t.
“The Covid deal that set him back, I and he have talked about,” Mond’s father, Kevin Mond, told the family home in San Antonio. “It is unfortunate but we were dealing with a pandemic at that time. In the first few days, he had body ache and only then he lost his body weight. Muscle pain. He couldn’t eat properly and couldn’t stop eating.”
After returning to practice on August 10, Mond joined the Precision Games on August 14 against Denver, on August 21 against Indianapolis, and on August 27 in Kansas City. Overall, he completed 28 of 51 passes for 310 yards in those games, with no touchdowns and interceptions.
The practice work in which the Vikings did anything was closed to the media during the regular season, so nothing else was seen from Mond until their three plays against the Packers. His third pass was almost intercepted.
Zimmer then offered his scathing criticism of Mond after the game. The next day, Zimmer returned to play with the Minnesota Bears with Cousins Back.
“I mean he’s the third team quarterback,” Zimmer said then. “He has improved. He has improved over the years. He has the potential to be a good player. But he is third on the depth chart, so we knew him.
A source told Pioneer Press after Zimmer was fired that Mondt was not upset by the comments made after the Green Bay game. He agreed to this.
“Someone told me about it,” Mond said of Zimmer’s comments. “One, he never actually spoke to me in person, so I didn’t really take too much offense to it. After a while he backtracked. But it’s all fun and games, whatever. It’s a new year, new coach, new team. I’m a year older, second year in the NFL.
Zimmer and Mond had little communication during the 2021 season. Kevin Mondt stated that Zimmer was never too keen on selecting Mondt in then-general manager Rick Spielman’s draft, adding, “I think he wanted a defensive player (with a second pick in the third round).’ ’ And Zimmer was vocal about wanting his players to get vaccinated, especially his quarterback.
“Zimmer wasn’t mad at that guy, he was mad at selecting the quarterback,” Kevin Mondt said of Zimmer’s comments after the Packers game. “So whoever was going to throw their poison at him, it was just Kellen.
“Kellan was in the doghouse from the start because of the draft and then, number two, COVID. So he was in Zimmer’s doghouse and was not getting out. They weren’t going to give him time and Zimmer wasn’t going to play him at the end of the year, so for me personally, Zimmer was just sticking his thumb at Spielman.
Spielman, who was fired the same day as Zimmer and eventually replaced by Kwesi Adofo-Mensa, did not return a message seeking comment. Zimmer could not be reached.
Through it all, Mond said he still benefited from last season.
“I think once I understood what my role is, I’m going to do it to the best of my ability, and a lot of it was making sure I’m ready for the Games, which I And just making sure I’m doing the best I can on the scout team and seeing some defensive guys,” he said.
Now, however, Mond is looking forward to an expanded role as he battles Manion to backup Cousins. He said that he is much better than last year.
“I personally think it’s night and day, just being able to get into this system, get a year under the books,” Mond said. “A lot of things (with the new offense) are very similar in terms of words and concepts. … I’m back feeling great. My body feels great. My hands feel great. So I’m excited Am.”
And Mond has a lot of support from his head coach. O’Connell was hired after serving as offensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams over the past two years, including their Super Bowl victory in February.
“Kellen has had a good spring so far, working incredibly hard, digesting the system.” O’Connell said.
O’Connell pointed to a recent exercise in organized team activities in which Mondt got an unexpected look, but “done a few checks” and “just instinctively” made appropriate adjustments.
Vikings offensive coordinator Wes Phillips, the Rams’ tight end coach over the past three seasons, is also pleased with what he has seen from Mond.
“Kelen is very fast,” Phillips said. “He’s really picked up on the offense very well. … He’s really done a good job of getting up to speed with our offense, our vocabulary. He’s calling the plays really well, and his eyes Was in the right place. … All is well so far.”
The Vikings showed some support for Mond when they did not select a quarterback in last month’s draft. Cousins, who signed a one-year contract extension in March that takes him through 2023, is set as Minnesota’s starter for 2022 and perhaps even 2023, but is set to give Vikings every chance to develop. are ready for.
The Vikings developed a lot of quarterbacks over several seasons before finally starting out. That list includes Tommy Kramer, Wade Wilson, Rich Gannon, and Brad Johnson.
Kramer, who played for the Vikings from 1977-89, Mond is like a San Antonio native. He was impressed when he saw the quarterback at Texas A&M.
“He walks really well and has a strong hand, so what more could you want?” Kramer said. “But the only way to get better is to get more reps. You can get reps in practice. But I think he can play.”
For now, the reports Mond’s father is getting from Minnesota are much more positive than his rookie year.
“He is in a good frame of mind where he is now,” said Kevin Mond. He said, ‘He has a good relationship with everyone there. He loves the new coaching staff, he is jotting down the playbook. He is taking it very well. He is in good spirits. ,