New offense has QBs putting in overtime

Vikings quarterbacks are trying to get used to their new offense, but they say it's both voluminous and challenging.

Vikings quarterbacks have only five more days of organized practices before their five-week break prior to training camp.

There is Wednesday and Thursday's final organized team activities, then a three-day mandatory minicamp next week. But there is a very real possibility that one or more of the quarterbacks will be putting in overtime with their studying. Both of the veterans, Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder, have talked about the volume of plays in offensive coordinator Norv Turner's playbook, and rookie Teddy Bridgewater has received praise time and again for his strong work ethic and eagerness to learn.

"I'd say there is a lot of quantity in terms of the first three or four installs. It's as much as I've ever been around," said nine-year veteran Matt Cassel. "But I think what it does is it challenges us as players to make sure that we're studying on the weekend. Any time that you're away, your day doesn't end at 1:30 or 2. It goes on until 9 o'clock at night or 10 o'clock at night because there is so much volume right now."

Ponder agrees with Cassel's assessment. Both players added that there is enough repetition with the installation of the new offense this offseason to help with the learning curve.

"There's so much verbiage. But the plays are great, guys are doing a great job of picking it up and we've spent some time. The good thing is we're installing everything three or four times and this is like the third or fourth time we've installed like the first three installs," Ponder said last week. "So now we're starting to pick it up and we're going to do it obviously again in training camp and we'll have all that time to review stuff. Things are going pretty smoothly."

Bridgewater has been impressive in helping out receivers, running backs and tight ends with presnap alignment or motion, especially considering he is a rookie.

The pattern seems to be information overload at first, then install and review repeatedly.

Turner hasn't let too many mistakes slide, however. He has been on players when they make a mistake in alignment or motion when it is something they've studied recently.

What has become clear is that Turner's offense will involve a lot more than the Vikings' previous offense under then-coordinator Bill Musgrave.

"It's definitely more complicated. I think there's just so many more plays," Ponder said. "The amount of plays that are installed Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, you get to Day 4 and you're like, ‘Alright, we'll take a step back.' Nope. It's 80 more plays in the playbook, which is good. There are a lot of options. When you start learning things conceptually, you see there are a lot of these plays are out of the same read, but maybe different formations or you have a different guy running a different route. It also gives guys a lot more freedom in what they can do and the routes they can run versus this coverage or that coverage, and what we can do with protections. It gives us a lot more options and helps us just go out and play."

Turner gained instant credibility with the players because of all of his experience in the NFL and the successes he has had in the past. But Ponder also said Turner has exceeded expectations now that players have gotten to know him better.

Cassel said "there's a lot of work to do" in becoming completely comfortable with the new offense, but he also believes he has a good handle on it considering where they are in the process – with a couple OTAs still to go and then minicamp next week.

"Every day there will be certain things that you learn, just being out there on the field – how Norv sees it, how he wants to run a certain play versus what you've done in the past," he said. "There's carryover, but then there's certain reads with certain ways you've done it in the past versus what you've done now. It's just a process, but at the same time I do feel like I've got a good grasp of what we're trying to get accomplished."

Players say they aren't sure how big the entire playbook will end up being by the time Turner is done. It's likely just a continuous work in progress based on Turner's past experiences, the defenses they are facing and the players' skills on the roster.

"I think it's never-ending," Ponder said of the playbook. "I don't think there's a stop to it. So, we'll see. I don't know how many installs we're going to have, and it's something that's going to be always changing. Once we get in our game planning, there's going to be plays that are brand new that we haven't learned yet."

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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