Norv Turner’s opening statement on Thursday was more like a filibuster.
There wasn’t a question taken during the Vikings offensive coordinator’s first four minutes on the podium. Instead, Turner rambled off 545 words; the subject was rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who Turner said has carried the offense.
“I’ve seen a bunch of guys really, really have a tough time with that and a bunch of guys that are good players,” Turner said. “It’s pretty incredible to me what he’s done, how he’s handled it, the things he’s gotten done, and what he’s really done is made everyone around him better and that’s a quality that you’re looking for.”
Turner said when he worked with young quarterbacks such as Troy Aikman with the Cowboys, Alex Smith with the 49ers and Philip Rivers with the Chargers, they all had great running backs — Emmitt Smith, Frank Gore and LaDainian Tomlinson — to ease the load.
Bridgewater has Matt Asiata, Ben Tate and Joe Banyard with Adrian Peterson serving his suspension for pleading no contest in a child injury case.
Bridgewater is also dealing with an offensive line that’s rotated eight different players because of injuries.
He completed 76.5 percent of his passes in a 16-14 loss to the Lions on Sunday, the highest mark for a rookie quarterback throwing more than 40 attempts in NFL history. Bridgewater went 31 of 41 for 315 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions against one of the top defenses in the NFL.
“We’ve kind of had an interesting group, and the people we’ve played on offense has been wide ranging,” Turner said. “To do the things he’s done, it just tells you something about the type of person he is, the type of player he is, and the thing that excites me is he can make any throw you need to make. … He knows how to play football and that’s the starting point of the quarterback position. He’s got the intangibles you need and he’s going to continue to get better and better.”
Cornerback Xavier Rhodes matched up with Lions receiver Calvin Johnson last week, but he’s not sure if Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer will ask him to defend the Dolphins’ top wideout.
Mike Wallace leads Miami with 804 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. Rhodes said he doesn’t have a preference of whether he serves as the right cornerback or shadows an opponent’s best receiver.
“Coach [Zimmer] hasn’t said anything to me about that, so we’re going to see,” Rhodes said. “Whatever Coach gives me, I’m going to go with it.”
Rhodes limited Johnson to four catches for 53 yards. He will have a different challenge ahead in his South Florida homecoming if Zimmer decides to use Rhodes on Wallace.
“You’ve just got to stay in front of him the whole time,” Rhodes said. “You can’t let him get on top of you. He’s a guy that can blow the top on a defense.”
Jeff Locke has posted consecutive games with a net punting average of more than 40 yards for the first time this season. He averaged 50.5 yards on two punts versus the Lions with an average return of 7 yards.
Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer has been pleased with Locke over the last month. He’s averaging 45.3 yards per punt over the last four games with one touchback.
“I’m real proud of the way he’s developed,” Priefer said. “I just need to be patient with him. He’s young, it’s hard to develop a young punter, but he’s got a great mental makeup, great work ethic and he’s plenty talented enough. We’re going to keep going in the right direction there.”
Nose tackle Linval Joseph (illness) returned as a limited participant at practice, but the Vikings still missed four other starters — tight end Kyle Rudolph (ankle/knee), left guard Charlie Johnson (ankle), rookie linebacker Anthony Barr (knee) and safety Robert Blanton (ankle/knee).
Zimmer said he expected most of these players to participate in Friday’s practice.