Hey, folks, we changed our blog a bit today, and during repairs, the guys were unable to blog. Which made them unhappy, because of all the blogging classes they took in college. Anyway, here is what you missed at Vikings training camp today, provided by Matt Vensel.
After what Mike Zimmer apparently decided was a productive day of practice yesterday, the Vikings head coach took it easy on his players today, scaling back a previously-scheduled padded practice to a more relaxed one with them in helmets and shells. Zimmer also wrapped up the team’s last practice before Friday night’s preseason opener a half hour early, much to the delight of the players.
“I told the team last night if they make me happy I make them happy,” Zimmer said this morning.
Zimmer shuffled players in and out of the three units, using the practice to evaluate non-starters at a different level of competition. Case in point: Christian Ponder was allowed to throw 10 passes, including some against a defense that included many first-stringers. You can tell everyone is ready for an actual game, though, from established starters looking to find a groove in an actual game to roster longshots who are hoping to catch the eye of the coaches and make them think differently.
SETTING THE SCENE: It was overcast at times, sunny at others. Either way, it was another hot afternoon without any rain. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time it rained down here. Then again, I can’t remember the last time I ran on the treadmill or ate something that didn’t come out of a deep fryer. The days all run together, which is why you could feel the anticipation for Friday night.
YOUR DAILY QUARTERBACK SMORGASBORD: Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater threw another interception today, but you can chalk that up as another one that wasn’t on the QB. He flipped a pass in the flat to rookie running back Dominique Williams, but the catchable ball clanked off his hands and up in the air to rookie cornerback Kendall James, who took it to the house. Overall, Bridgewater completed eight of his 11 attempts. First-stringer Matt Cassel completed six of eight with a touchdown in a red-zone drill. Ponder completed eight of his 10 attempts. He overshot Erik Lora on a deep ball down the sideline, but did complete a couple nice throws to the undrafted rookie.
SOMETHING GOOD IN THE RED ZONE: Wide receiver Jerome Simpson made one of the best grabs of training camp in the red-zone drill. Cassel floated a pass to the back right corner of the end zone, and Simpson skied above cornerback Josh Robinson to bring it down, tapping two feet before he flew out the back of the end zone. If only the Vikings saw that more consistently from Simpson…
SOMETHING NOT GOOD IN THE RED ZONE: One area where Bridgewater has struggled is the red zone. On Saturday, he was intercepted by outside linebacker Chad Greenway, though credit the vet by reading Bridgewater’s eyes and undercutting the intended receiver’s route. Today, Bridgewater was almost intercepted in the red zone again, but outside linebacker Gerald Hodges couldn’t come down with the pass and had to pump out some pushups. The windows get tighter and the things happen faster in the red zone, so it’s no surprise that a rookie quarterback has made some mistakes.
MR. MANKATO UPDATE: Adam Thielen flashed a couple more times today, including a contested catch over James. He seems to have good chemistry with Bridgewater, who could play two quarters against the Raiders, so don’t be surprised if Thielen goes off and becomes one of the stars of the preseason. I’m not saying he is going to turn into Victor Cruz. But a reliable backup receiver? Maybe.
A FRIENDLY GAME OF CATCH: As special teams coordinator Mike Priefer was running the last drill of the afternoon, the three quarterbacks jogged around on the second field, catching passes from each other. Bridgewater bombed a 50-yard pass to Cassel. Then Ponder threw a deep ball to Bridgewater and another one to Cassel. I know this was just a small snapshot of training camp, but it seems to me these guys aren’t lying when they say there is no animosity in this completion.
INJURY REPORT: Cornerback Marcus Sherels and safety Jamarca Sanford did not participate in practice. It’s unclear if they have injuries or if the coaching staff was just giving them a breather. Also sitting out this afternoon were Robert Blanton (hamstring) and tight end Chase Ford (foot). I mentioned Robinson earlier. He returned to practice today and figures to suit up on Friday night.