With only the preseason finale standing between the Vikings and final roster cuts, head coach Mike Zimmer and his staff must make their final evaluation of a bunch of bubble boys Thursday night.
So what is he hoping to see from the Vikings players who are battling for jobs against the Titans?
“Instead of trying to play cautious, they play aggressive,” Zimmer said of the fringe players who typically stand out. “They’re going to fight for what they want to achieve. I think that part of it. I’ve seen a lot of guys come in there and they kind of spit the bit. They don’t really want to run that day. They’re more about not getting beat as opposed to beating the guy that they’re up against.”
Of course, some players who are still in limbo won’t get another chance to make an impression on Zimmer due to injuries. Outside linebackers Mike Mauti (foot) and Brandon Watts (leg), safety Jamarca Sanford (quad) and cornerback Jabari Price (arm/shoulder) will not play against the Titans.
Nor will nose tackle Linval Joseph (calf), right tackle Phil Loadholt (ankle) and outside linebacker Anthony Barr (sprained ankle), but those guys don’t have to worry about keeping their roster spots.
Wide receiver Rodney Smith (neck) and outside linebacker Gerald Hodges (knee) are also expected to sit out, though the fact that Hodges practiced today gives him hope that he might be able to go.
As for the quarterback plan, Zimmer was vague with us because he hadn’t yet told some players his plan for playing time. He left wiggle room that Matt Cassel could play, but said there is a “good chance” that Teddy Bridgewater will start before eventually giving way to Christian Ponder.
“If he does start the game, it’s good for us to see how he takes the beginning of the game,” Zimmer said of the rookie quarterback, who did not start any of the team’s first three preseason games.
One other comment piqued my interest in Zimmer’s powwow with reporters. When asked about cornerback Shaun Prater, he said he could see the Vikings shifting him to safety “down the road.”
“Prater, obviously he was with me before [in Cincinnati], but he’s a tough, feisty kid that can do a lot of jobs,” Zimmer said. “He can play nickel. He can play corner. I’m not too sure we shouldn’t look at him some at safety, just because of his temperament and he’s doing things a lot better now.”
With that praise for Prater, it sure seems like we can pencil him onto the team’s 53-man roster.