Vikings face Stefon Diggs for first time since trading him to Buffalo in 2020

Five months before the Vikings traded wide receiver Stefon Diggs to the Buffalo Bills in March 2020, he spoke to quarterback Kirk Cousins about wanting to move on.

In October 2019, a disgruntled Diggs missed a practice, stayed home from a day of meetings at the TCO Performance Center and was fined more than $200,000 before playing in a game at the New York Giants. On March 16, 2020, a deal was reached to send him to the Bills.

On Sunday in Buffalo, Diggs will go against his former team for the first time since the trade. And on Wednesday, Cousins provided a bit of a timetable about Diggs’ exit.

In talking about Diggs being traded, Cousins said, “He made it pretty clear from the start that this has nothing to do with you, and we talked about it.” Cousins was then asked when Diggs told him that.

“Months before (the trade),” Cousins said. “We’re talking way, way back. I mean, he missed a week of practice, as you recall.”

In the deal for Diggs, the Vikings got 2020 draft picks in the first, fifth and sixth rounds, plus a 2021 fourth-round selection; they gave up a 2020 seventh-round pick. With the first-round pick, the Vikings took Justin Jefferson at No. 22 overall, and he has become one of the NFL’s top receivers.

Diggs took his game to another level after being traded, making Pro Bowls in 2020 and 2021 and being first-team All-Pro in 2020. On Wednesday, he looked back at leaving Minnesota, where he played from 2015-19.

“When I got traded, I picked up the book, ’The Alchemist,’ and it definitely taught me a lot as far as with timing and things lining up, how they’re supposed to line up,” Diggs told reporters in Buffalo. “You know, my time in Minnesota was amazing. I loved it. … I don’t have any bad taste in my mouth. I thought there were some great people, great coaches. It just didn’t work out.

“I feel I took my lumps kind of in Minnesota, even though I was a good player in Minnesota. What I wanted for myself was beyond measure, and I felt like I had to somewhat better myself.”

Diggs wanted out of Minnesota because the Vikings had a run-first offense with Dalvin Cook. He has been targeted more in Buffalo, catching a whopping 290 passes for 3,617 yards in 41 games, including 60 receptions for 857 yards in eight games this season.

“I got traded years ago,” Diggs said. “Of course, it was something that came full circle moment. … My life has changed a lot since then. A lot of great things have happened.”

It remains to be seen who will be throwing to Diggs in Sunday’s game. Star quarterback Josh Allen missed practice Wednesday and was called “day-to-day” by Bills coach Sean McDermott due to an elbow injury suffered last Sunday against the New York Jets. If Allen can’t go, the starter will be Case Keenum, a former Vikings quarterback who threw the famous “Minneapolis Miracle” pass to Diggs to beat New Orleans in the 2017 playoffs.

Cousins joined the Vikings in 2018, and was Diggs’ quarterback for two seasons. He’s glad to see how the trade helped Diggs as well as the Vikings.

“It’s one that’s worked out for everybody involved,” Cousins said. “I think Stefon felt that he was wanting a different opportunity, and I think his production in Buffalo would suggest that’s worked out very well for him. It was tough to lose him, but when you’re able to go get Justin, which is not easy to do when you lose Stefon without the guarantee of replacing that, it’s hard. But being able to get Justin sort of made it sting a little less with the way Justin’s played.”

Vikings receiver Adam Thielen said Monday he was “bummed” at first when his good friend was traded but that it made “the transition a lot easier” when Jefferson began to excel. Jefferson made the Pro Bowl in each of his first two seasons, and his 255 catches for 3,883 yards in 41 games with the Vikings are similar numbers to what Diggs has put up in Buffalo.

“When the trade got made, everybody was, ‘Crazy,’ ” Cook said Wednesday. “Then we got Justin Jefferson and we were good.”

Cook called Diggs his “brother” and said it will “be fun playing against him” on Sunday. Linebacker Eric Kendricks said it will “be cool” facing his former teammate.

“I trained with Diggs a little bit in the offseason,’ so we got a chance to catch up then,” Kendricks said. “But I know he’s a super-competitor. So I’m ready.”

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