The Vikings’ quarterback search of 2018, which was already full of subplots this spring, will deliver at least a couple more rounds of intrigue.
As the Vikings open the preseason in Denver on Saturday night, they’ll line up across from the quarterback whose unlikely rise to the starting job fueled the team’s trip to the NFC Championship Game last season: Case Keenum, who signed a two-year, $38 million deal with the Broncos in March after it became clear the Vikings were fixing their attention on Kirk Cousins.
The reunion figures to last no more than a couple series or so, as both teams seek to get their starters out of the preseason opener without injury. But in a year where the Vikings are scheduled to play back-to-back regular-season games against the teams that signed Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater — the Cardinals and the Jets — they will kick things off against Keenum and the Broncos.
“I don’t know if weird is the right word, but it will be great,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “It will be good.”
Keenum, who took over for the injured Bradford in Week 2 last season, threw for 3,547 yards, 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 14 games, posting the fifth-highest single-season passer rating (98.3) in Vikings history and joining Randall Cunningham, Brett Favre, Fran Tarkenton and Daunte Culpepper as the only quarterbacks in team history to post double-digit victories in a season.
His ascendancy raised questions about whether he could do it again, but reports out of Denver have Keenum off to a strong start, having thrown only two interceptions in camp so far.
“Case was a winner,” Zimmer said. “He won a lot of games and moved well in the pocket. He’s a great teammate and made some outstanding plays for us. With Kirk, he’s been as advertised. He throws the deep ball well, [he’s] very accurate and takes charge of the offense.”
No interest in Incognito
Four-time Pro Bowl player Richie Incognito told TMZ in a recent interview that the Vikings and Seahawks had expressed interest in signing him before this season. Asked about Incognito’s comments on Tuesday, Zimmer didn’t mince words.
“No interest and totally false,” Zimmer said. “Tweet that.”
The claim didn’t sit well with Incognito, who responded on Twitter by calling Zimmer a liar and posting screen shots of an offseason conversation with late Vikings offensive line coach Tony Sparano — Incognito’s former coach in Miami — though none of Sparano’s responses seemed to indicate concrete interest from the Vikings. Incognito deleted those tweets later Tuesday night.
Incognito — who was suspended during the 2013 season for his behavior toward former Dolphins teammate Jonathan Martin — was out of the NFL in 2014 after the league hired former FBI director Robert Mueller to investigate his behavior.
He played the past three seasons in Buffalo, starting 16 games each year and making the Pro Bowl after each season. He was released in May.
Cousins ‘a little bit juiced up’
The Vikings had their first chance to see their new quarterback in a stadium Saturday when Cousins worked with the team’s offense during its annual night practice.
Cousins misfired on some early throws in the practice, which Zimmer attributed to the quarterback coming out with a little too much excitement.
“I think he was a little bit juiced up, because of the crowd and things like that,” Zimmer said. “It’s something that we have to find out about too, because we haven’t been with him in a game, we’ve gone against him. That’s part of it too.”
The Vikings named Edina native and former Gophers linebacker Nick Rallis their defensive quality control coach Tuesday. Rallis, who is working on a master’s degree at the U, was a graduate assistant at Wake Forest last season.