As Friday night’s preseason opener neared, the Vikings hinted that rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater would get snaps with the first-team offense against the Raiders. Finally, on Wednesday morning, coach Mike Zimmer came right out and said it.
“Teddy will get some reps with the first team, yes,” Zimmer said.
Veteran Matt Cassel will get the start, but Zimmer indicated that Bridgewater would get a significant amount of playing time. And if the rookie is nervous about making his unofficial NFL debut, he isn’t letting on.
“It’s a dream come true, to finally be able to play my first game in the National Football League,” he said. “I’ve been playing football since I was 5 years old, and I’ve just been waiting for this moment. Right now, I’m just pretty excited. I can’t wait.”
So what is Zimmer looking to see from Bridgewater as he tries to unseat Cassel?
“How he handles the game situations. When the lights come on, it will be a different deal,” Zimmer said. “It will be good for him and how he reacts to seeing different defenses he hasn’t seen very much of, how he has to adjust to the blitz, get the ball out, make the right calls. How he plays under pressure. I anticipate he’s going to play very well.”
Fusco focused on football
Right guard Brandon Fusco, whom Pro Football Focus graded out as the NFL’s sixth-best guard last season, is entering the final year of his rookie contract. Asked if the Vikings have approached his agent about a new deal, he said, “Not really yet.”
“It is what it is,” he said. “I’m going to go out there and play the same, work hard and that will all take care of itself. It’s all with my agent. My job is to go out there on the field and do my job.”
Fusco has made a positive impression on Zimmer at least.
“I like him. Doesn’t say much,” Zimmer said. “Physical. He’s improving every day. He wants to be good. I think it’s important to him. … I think he’s on course to be a very, very good player.”
Rookie Leonard waived
The Vikings waived tight end AC Leonard, whom they signed as a rookie free agent out of Tennessee State. The move leaves the Vikings with five tight ends and an open roster spot.
Leonard left practice July 30 because of what Zimmer described as a headache and hadn’t practiced since. The team had been putting Leonard through medical tests to determine a diagnosis.
If he clears waivers today, he could revert to injured reserve if the Vikings gave him a waive/injured designation.
Zimmer keeping ‘D’ simple
Zimmer chuckled when asked how his defensive game plan for the Raiders is shaping up.
“It’s good. It’s very simple, very simple,” Zimmer said. “Really, what we’re trying to do in this football game is I want our players to play fast, and I want them to have to not think about what their assignment is, so we’ll be very, very basic in everything we do. We are trying to evaluate our players on their athletic ability, not how fast they are thinking about everything.”
An appearance from Page
Former Viking and Hall of Fame defensive tackle Alan Page attended Wednesday’s morning walk-through. After watching from the sideline with General Manager Rick Spielman, Page spoke in the team huddle.
“He just said to always strive for excellence and never try to compare yourself to another person,” defensive end Brian Robison said. “Be the best person on the field that you can be. The battle is always internal.”
Two DBs miss practice
Cornerback Marcus Sherels and safety Jamarca Sanford did not practice Wednesday. It’s unclear if they have injuries or if Zimmer just gave them the day off, as he has done with other veterans.
Also missing practice were safety Robert Blanton (hamstring) and tight end Chase Ford (foot).