The media has been paying a lot of attention to Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s comeback from his knee injury, which is hard to understand since there is no chance he will play this season. But the chances are high that the Vikings will find a way to keep him on the roster.
The other question is why would anybody think that current starter Case Keenum would be replaced after posting the kind of record he has and ranking as the seventh-best quarterback in the league, according to ESPN?
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman touched on where Bridgewater is physically but didn’t indicate whether Bridgewater has any chance to play this year.
“Basically, Teddy is able to practice with us until Wednesday,” Spielman said. “Wednesday is when we have to determine whether to keep him on the PUP [physically-unable-to-perform] list or he comes up on the active 53. If he comes up on the active 53, then the coaches will determine where we go from there.
“At this date all we’re doing is monitoring how he’s practicing, how he’s moving and practicing, and if we do bring him up on the 53, we’re never going to move a player up unless he’s ready to go out there and play in an NFL game. I know Teddy is working extremely hard and we’ll make that determination next week.”
When asked about his free-agent status for next year, Spielman said: “He is technically out of contract next year.”
Offseason focus on offense
Even if the Vikings move Bridgewater onto the 53-man roster, that doesn’t mean he’d start any time soon.
“I think Coach [Mike] Zimmer, we’ll evaluate where everything is at, and Coach Zimmer and Pat Shurmur will make those decisions [about who starts],” Spielman said. “Right now Case Keenum is our starter and has been doing a great job. I don’t know when Teddy will be back. We’ll make that decision next week. Sam [Bradford] is working extremely hard to get back. But as of today Case Keenum, we have won with Case Keenum and he has done a phenomenal job for us.”
Keenum, who Spielman signed to a one-year, $2 million deal this offseason, has been a big part of the offense continuing to perform after Bradford went down because of a knee injury. But he is just one part of a big effort to improve the offense in the offseason.
Consider the other major signings the Vikings made: running back Latavius Murray, right tackle Mike Remmers, wide receiver Michael Floyd and tackle Riley Reiff. All of those players have had major contributions.
And the same can be said for the draft, which was also focused on offensive improvement. Running back Dalvin Cook was selected in the second round, center Pat Elflein in the third round, wide receiver Rodney Adams and guard Danny Isidora in the fifth round and wide receiver Stacy Coley in the seventh round.
Each of those players has seen playing time this season, with Elflein being a standout.
“I give credit to Pat Shurmur and we have three new offensive coaches on that side of the ball,” Spielman said. “We really wanted to home in, and I knew that was Coach Zimmer’s main focus, too, to improve the offensive side of the ball. We were aggressively trying to attack that in free agency and in the draft, and trying to bring in guys that fit in what Pat Shurmur’s scheme was.
“We revamped the whole offensive line and [coach] Tony Sparano has done a phenomenal job bringing that group together as one group. They are going to continue to grow and hopefully we’ll be able to keep them healthy as we move forward.”
Preparation was key
Another reason that Spielman sees for the team’s 6-2 start despite losing its starting quarterback and running back is that the young players on the team got extra time with the coaching staff during the offseason. He believes that helped them learn the system much faster.
“I think what the coaching staff and Coach Zimmer did was after the draft and after we got a lot of these young players in here they spent a lot of extra time, even after the OTAs, working with these young guys on the field,” he said. “They did a lot of things during the rookie minicamp, implemented some new things to make sure we could accelerate their process of developing.
“Like every NFL season, there is going to be a time when you have to play with these young guys, and I give credit to Coach Zimmer and the coaching staff for the time and energy they put into these type of players to give them the ability to come out.”
Still, Spielman knows that even greater tests are coming for the Vikings over the final eight weeks of the season. They have the fifth-toughest remaining strength of schedule in the NFC, and the Packers, Lions and Bears have the easiest schedules remaining in the NFC.
“We’ve got, I think, five of our next eight games on the road, three division games at the end of the season,” Spielman said. “It is going to be a test for our guys. It is a great time to have the bye to get regrouped here a little bit because of how tough the schedule is going to be coming out of the bye.”
• Credit Jim Leyland, the former Tigers manager who is now a special assistant with the club, for the hiring of Ron Gardenhire, who was a big booster of the former Twins manager.
• One of the big questions is whether the Twins will try to re-sign closer Brandon Kintzler, who was traded to the Nationals, where he posted a 3.46 ERA in 26 innings. “Because of our familiarity with him I’m sure he’ll be one of a number of guys that we’ll make sure we assess and connect with to determine if there is a good fit,” said Derek Falvey, Twins chief baseball officer.
• The first half of the Vikings season saw the defense not allow a single 100-yard receiving or rushing game.
• Everson Griffen, who was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Month, has 29 tackles and 10 sacks through eight games. At the same point last season he had 25 tackles and six sacks. … Meanwhile, linebacker Eric Kendricks is eighth in the NFL in tackles with 61, which leads the team.
• Vikings receiver Adam Thielen on working with Stefon Diggs. “He’s going to go to practice and he’s going to grind every single day, and I love that about him.” Thielen is second in the NFL with 627 receiving yards, Diggs is 25th with 422.
• ESPN has the Vikings ranked as the fifth-best team in the NFL. “What do the Vikings have to worry about after winning four straight?” they wrote. “Case Keenum really hasn’t been tested that much and who knows if and when Sam Bradford or Teddy Bridgewater could return.”
• An early surprise for the Wolves has been the bench play of Gorgui Dieng, Tyus Jones, Shabazz Muhammad, Jamal Crawford and Nemanja Bjelica. “I think we have quality depth,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “One of the things that hurt us last year was when Zach [LaVine] got hurt, and when [Bjelica] got hurt right after the All-Star break our depth was really thin.”
Sid Hartman can be heard on WCCO AM-830 at 8:40 a.m. Monday and Friday, 2 p.m. Friday and 10:30 a.m. Sunday. • firstname.lastname@example.org