Vikings coach Mike Zimmer defended Teddy Bridgewater from those who might stray too far in their argument that the young quarterback has a long leap to reach the so-called next level in his third season.

“I don’t know how you measure how much of a step [he has to] take,” Zimmer said today after a thunderstorm ended the first practice of a three-day minicamp 15 minutes early. “I still go back to great quarterbacks win. That’s the thing that this guy does. He’s a winner. Can you look up his record for me? Whatever it is, he wins games. ”

Moments later, Bob Hagan, Vikings executive director of public relations, stepped up with the Bridgewater’s record. Bob said, “17-11.” We’ll adjust it to 17-12, counting the Seattle playoff loss, but Zimmer’s point was supported by the fact that Bridgewater’s 17 wins tie him with Brett Favre and Warren Moon for the most by a Vikings quarterback through his first two seasons.

“To me, that’s the most important thing,” Zimmer said of winning. “There’s a lot more to playing quarterback than just throwing the ball through the wall. I won’t name any guys, but off the top of my head, I can think of a lot of really, really strong-armed quarterbacks that didn’t win, No. 1. Didn’t take care of the ball and didn’t do things right. No. 1 picks in the draft, too.”

If anyone in the room didn’t think, “Jeff George” at that particular moment, he or she is probably really young or really not into football.

Zimmer, on the other hand, is looking for Bridgewater to make some natural progression. One of those areas is trusting his own vision and judgment well enough to launch better deep throws. Months ago, Zimmer and General Manager Rick Spielman both said they wanted Bridgewater to “let it loose” in Year 3.

Now, on the doorstep of Year 3, Zimmer has praised Bridgewater for his deep ball during OTAs and today’s start to a three-day minicamp.

“I think we’ve just focused on it a little bit more,” Zimmer said of why he thinks Bridgewater is getting better in that area. “There was a play last week that kind of showed me the progression. We had a hard count and one of the guys on defense jumped. We had a play-action off of it and he saw the guy jump, and he said, ‘Gotcha.’ And then he saw the safety bite a little bit and he just hummed it right down the middle of the field about 55 yards for a perfect strike.

“Those are the kind of things I see that two years ago or even early last year I don’t think he would have done. There are other plays like that where he sees the safety bite. To me, he just looks more comfortable and confident in the things that he’s doing.”

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