Jake Browning sounds awfully happy for a guy who set national high school and major college passing records only to be criticized for a weak arm and snubbed by the NFL in last week's draft.
"I'm exactly where I wanted to be all along," said the former University of Washington quarterback, whose $140,000 deal shattered by $65,000 the Vikings' record for guaranteed money to an undrafted rookie.
Before the Wilf family paid him, it was the Kubiak family who wooed Browning. Gary Kubiak, the assistant head coach/offensive adviser, and son Klint Kubiak, the quarterbacks coach, convinced Browning that his best foothold in the NFL was battling Kyle Sloter (zero NFL games played) and Sean Mannion (one NFL start) for the backup spot to Kirk Cousins.
"I don't have any ties to the Kubiaks, but I knew they have a system similar to what I'm used to running," Browning said Friday during the first day of the Vikings' three-day rookie minicamp. "I really enjoyed the conversations we had, and they expressed the most interest. I had a couple other options, but I felt like it was somewhere that wanted me, so I wanted to be here."
Browning, who threw a national high school-record 229 touchdowns at Folsom High in California and a school-record 94 for the Huskies, had shoulder surgery after throwing a school-record 43 as a sophomore. Although he threw only 35 touchdowns the next two years — a red flag during the draft process — he did post a 20-7 record as a junior and senior.
"The shoulder was 100 percent two months after my surgery," he said. "That story was overblown. The shoulder is fine. I had to answer that question a lot through the whole draft process. But I told everybody, 'We kept winning a lot of games. And, at the end of the day, that's what it's all about.' "
Amen, says Viking coach Mike Zimmer.
"The guy won a lot of games," Zimmer said. "We felt like he's got a lot of upside to work with, a lot of tools. We felt like he was a good athlete and won a lot of games. So that was important to us."
Kicking coach search
Zimmer said the Vikings are "working on" hiring a specialized coach for kicker Dan Bailey and the field-goal operation. He's previously said the addition wouldn't be necessary until organized team activities (OTAs), or the offseason's first full team practices, which begin May 21. The hire would work in concert with first-year special teams coordinator Marwan Maalouf.
The Vikings ranked last in field goal conversion (68.8 percent) a year ago. Bailey, who re-signed on a one-year, $1 million contract, arrived in Week 3 after rookie Daniel Carlson's tenure lasted just two games. Bailey then missed a career-high seven field-goal attempts (one blocked).
Two kickers — Jonas Schenderlein (Concordia-St. Paul) and Austin MacGinnis (Kentucky) — were among 37 tryout players on Friday.
Cutting aims for OTAs
Seventh-round pick Austin Cutting, the Air Force long snapper and acquisitions officer, jumped one hurdle in finishing classwork to attend rookie minicamp. He's hopeful to attend OTAs later this month, even though his May 30 graduation runs parallel with a Vikings practice.
According to Cutting, the Air Force Academy and Vikings remain in talks about how he can fulfill both his NFL and military obligations.
"Not trying to get out of any of that," Cutting said Friday. "They're talking, and we're trying to figure it out. As of now, I'm serving 24 months and that's how it is."
Bradbury gets advice
In addition to Zimmer, General Manager Rick Spielman and offensive line coaches Rick Dennison and Andrew Janocko watching his first steps as a Viking, first-round pick Garrett Bradbury also had former Vikings center Joe Berger looking over his shoulder at times. Berger, the now-retired NFL center who played seven seasons in Minnesota, was in town and stopped by TCO Performance Center to bestow some wisdom on the rookie center.
"Listen to the older guys," Bradbury said. "He actually told me don't listen to the older guys, but I think he was joking."
•Defensive tackle Armon Watts, a sixth-round pick, became the ninth Vikings draftee to sign his four-year rookie contract on Friday. Only three picks, including Bradbury, remain unsigned.