The Vikings will finally be able to put pads on Aug. 17, two days before Cousins turns 32, and their truncated run-up to the season will be spent finding a new starter at guard and determining what Jefferson and free-agent pickup Tajae Sharpe can do in their offense.
The fact the Vikings' offense still has Cousins, Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, Kyle Rudolph and four returning starters along the line might make that the more established side of the ball. The unusualness of that is not lost on safety Harrison Smith as the Vikings prepare to find four new starters on defense.
"We're talking about the defense changing and stuff; that's normally not what we're talking about," Smith said. "(Usually) we're talking about the offense. Now we've got continuity with Kirk and a bunch of guys over there, building on success. Especially without preseason games, it'll be good to go against a group like that in practice who's going to be clicking at a high level."
Cousins' overtime throws to Thielen and Rudolph in New Orleans set up his first career playoff win, but the Vikings managed just seven first downs the following week in San Francisco.
The loss to the 49ers has become a totem for the three men -- Cousins, coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman -- who each got new contracts from the Vikings before the 2020 season, as the team tries to get over the hump the game seems to represent.
Reaching the ranks of the NFC's elite, in a year with changes on defense and little time to get ready, could require even more from Cousins. At this stage of his NFL career, and at his current level of affluence, it's to be expected.
"One of the focuses for me this season will be to, if we're not running the ball well and things aren't going well, to be able to make those plays that can get us right back into a game and win a game," he said. "I think you saw it in the Denver game (last November), we were down and able to get back in it and win. Being able to do that more and against a team like San Francisco, it's not an easy task.
"But those are the challenges when they eventually come up this season, it's a goal and something you're working toward to say, 'Hey, in those moments, try to find a way to dig deep and make enough plays to win.' "
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