The past 10 seasons the Vikings ran their offense through Adrian Peterson, a once-in-a-generation talent at running back. But this season will be different, and it looks more and more likely that the offense will be built around the talents of quarterback Sam Bradford, who had an effective first season with the Vikings in 2016 despite not arriving until just before the regular season began.
Bradford was able to post career highs in passer rating (99.3), yards passing (3,877), and completion percentage (71.6), which is also the highest mark in NFL history.
But for the Vikings and Bradford there still is some uncertainty, with him in the last year of a two-year contract, and injured former starter Teddy Bridgewater seeming to make strides every day. Bradford was asked how important it is to get an entire offseason with the club to improve the offense.
“Obviously last year was pretty unique, I have never been in that situation, and I don’t think many people have been in that situation,” Bradford said. “But just to be here this offseason, to be able to go through the program, go through the meetings, the installs, really sit down and learn this offense and what we’re trying to do, it’s a much better situation than showing up here however many days, eight or nine, before the first game last year and trying to learn everything on the fly.”
Bradford admitted that even though he put together good numbers, he didn’t have full command of the offense for some time.
“I think the later we got in the year the better I felt with it,” he said. “Obviously going through the change that we did kind of halfway through the season [the resignation of Norv Turner as offensive coordinator], having worked with [new offensive coordinator] Pat [Shurmur], I think that really helped me just because we have a really good relationship and I felt like we were able to communicate. Towards the end of the year I felt like I had a pretty good grasp on things.”
Yes, there’s no question that there is a lot of room for growth in the offense, despite Bradford’s numbers. The team ranked only 28th in total offense last season, averaging 315.1 yards per game, and the average of 20.4 points per game ranked just 23rd.
Bradford has few concerns about playing on an expiring contract.
“It’s one of those things that I kind of went through the situation a little bit when I was in Philadelphia and honestly I try not to think about it too much, just because I don’t have a whole lot of control over it,” he said. “I come in here every day trying to get better, trying to be the best teammate, the best quarterback I can be.”
When asked if the team has had any discussions with his agent, Bradford said that he didn’t believe so.
So while he’ll be making $18 million this season, it remains a unique situation for the 29-year-old. But he said that the uncertainty of last season, and the way he and the team responded, should bode well for this year.
“I think I learned a lot about a lot of things last year going through that,” he said. “But you know I think it just makes me grateful to have the opportunity to be here this time of year and be able to go through the offseason program and hopefully prepare myself as you would in a normal year to go out there and play.”
Changes all around
Bradford said he likes the new look of the offensive line.
“Obviously excited about all of the moves that they’ve made,” he said. “I have great faith in Coach Zim [Mike Zimmer] and [General Manager] Rick [Spielman], obviously it’s still early but ... I think everyone is excited.”
And what did he think about Peterson signing with the Saints?
“I was only here a year with Adrian, but obviously he has been a fixture in this building and this community for a long time,’’ Bradford said. ‘‘I think any time someone like that says goodbye it’s tough.
“But I think for the people here who have enjoyed watching him play and have got to watch him do some of the special things he has done, I think it’s always going to be tough watching him play for another team. But with that being said we wish him well.”
Lastly, Bradford said that while it may be a competition between him and Bridgewater, he is more concerned with his teammate’s recovery from a serious injury, something Bradford knows a lot about.
“It has been good to see him with the team, with the offense out here working,” Bradford said. “Obviously I’m familiar with what he’s going through right now, and I know how tough it can be both physically and mentally when you’re going through the rehab process.
“I just try to encourage him, and if he ever needs anything obviously I’m there for him to just kind of give him advice of things I learned going through that twice.”
So does he have any concerns about his uncertain future as the quarterback of the Vikings?
“Like I said, I can only control the things I can control, which is coming in here and working hard and being the player I know I can be,” he said.
• A lot of focus for the Gophers has been on their thin offensive and defensive lines, but coach P.J. Fleck also mentioned that the team is going to be awfully young in the secondary. “A lot of young people are going to have to play,” he said. “A lot of them graduated. We had some leave the program with being dismissed. Now you have a youth movement and not a ton of depth there, either. So again being fixed in the ’18 and ’19 [recruiting] classes that’s really going to be the setup in the future.”
• One of the biggest moneymakers for Major League Baseball teams is its TV contracts with local affiliates, such as Fox Sports North. Still Twins President Dave St. Peter said that the TV landscape is changing as the Twins recently broadcast a game on Facebook for the first time. “Short-term I don’t think fans need to worry,” he said. “I think our games continue to be distributed via traditional channels, but there’s going to be incremental ways to follow the Twins going forward, whether it be through your phone, your tablet, or any other device.”
• Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, who also owns the Star Tribune, was asked if he thinks the his team will re-sign free agent Shabazz Muhammad. “We had made him a couple of offers this year and last year, and they didn’t accept it. I think it’s going to be hard to do that,” he said.
• One reason people think the Timberwolves may need to add a shooter is because Gorgui Dieng has the best three-point percentage on the team from last season at 37.2.
• Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau talked about why the team was more comfortable going forward with Jeff Teague instead of Ricky Rubio and mentioned his postseason experience. “The one thing about Jeff Teague is he has been in the playoffs every year he has been in the league,” Thibodeau said. “Two years ago Atlanta had the best record in the league and he was an All-Star.”
Sid Hartman can be heard on WCCO AM-830 at 8:40 a.m. Monday and Friday, 2 p.m. Friday and 10:30 a.m. Sunday. firstname.lastname@example.org.