After a stunning trade and a flight from Oklahoma to Minnesota, Sam Bradford walked inside Winter Park for the first time Saturday afternoon and shook hands with his new head coach and offensive coordinator. In seven seasons in the NFL, the 28-year-old quarterback has gotten used to these types of introductions.
Bradford is now working with his fifth head coach and sixth offensive coordinator in five seasons in St. Louis, another year in Philadelphia and now Minnesota. So he is all too familiar with having to meet new coaches and learn new systems.
But the former No. 1 overall pick has never had to cram like this before.
The clock is ticking fast, and Sunday will be here in a flash. There might be too much to learn in the next few days for him to start the season opener.
“I think it just takes time. It takes reps. Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of either of those,” Bradford said Monday after his second practice with the Vikings. “I’ve had to learn new offenses in the past. I don’t know if I’ve had to learn one this fast or in this much of a hurry. So [on Sunday] I kind of got thrown into the fire to learn everything at once, and that’s how we’re going to have to do it.”
The Vikings on Sunday had what was described as a “light practice,” which gave Bradford — who was acquired in a trade four days after starter Teddy Bridgewater suffered a season-ending knee injury — his first chance to run Turner’s plays, throw to wide receiver Stefon Diggs and the rest of his new Vikings targets, and get used to working with starting center Joe Berger.
Monday was Bradford’s first full practice on the outdoor fields at Winter Park.
During a 17-minute window when reporters were permitted to watch practice, Bradford — who still didn’t have his name stitched on the back of his red No. 8 non-contact jersey — stretched with his new teammates, handed off to Adrian Peterson and his fellow running backs and tossed short passes to uncovered tight ends. Bradford was second in line in those drills behind 36-year-old Shaun Hill.
Then the media was shooed away, as is the team’s right, allowing Bradford and his offensive teammates a little privacy as they continued getting used to each other.
After the two-hour practice was whistled to an end, Bradford stayed on the field to throw passes to tight end Kyle Rudolph, wideout Adam Thielen and others.
“You learn the playbook and X’s and O’s on paper, but how that plays out on the field [is what matters most] — how guys run routes, how he throws balls,” Rudolph said after they were done. “So for us, it’s about getting as many reps as possible with both Shaun and Sam, because we haven’t had many reps with Shaun, either.”
But Bradford could get in only a few more minutes of throwing before a member of the media relations staff led him over for his first news conference in purple.
“Obviously [the lack of time is] not ideal,” Bradford said. “Normally you have an offseason, you have a summer to at least work on some of that timing. But I just think that means that every rep we get in practice is more important. They’ve got to be focused. I’ve got to be focused. We’ve got to take advantage of every throw in practice, get throws after practice, and make sure we’re all on the same page.”
The initial plan after acquiring Bradford was that Hill would start Sunday’s season opener at Tennessee and that the Vikings hoped to get Bradford up to speed for the Sept. 18 home opener against Green Bay. But the past week served as yet another reminder that a lot can change in the NFL in the span of a few days.
“I didn’t think my quarterback was going to hurt his knee in a non-contact drill on Tuesday,” Zimmer said Monday. “So things change. We’ll just see how it goes.”
Zimmer plans to give both Bradford and Hill first-team reps during practice this week. He said he likes what he has seen from Bradford on the field so far.
Bradford, though, has a lot to learn in the short span of the next few days to be trusted to start against the Titans — instead of Hill, who knows the offense.
“That’s the goal, to progress to that point to where I feel comfortable enough to get out there and play if I’m needed to,” said Bradford, who is 25-37-1 in 63 career NFL starts. “But I can’t tell you if that’s going to be the case or not.”