Notebook: Vikings rookies making their case

Mike Zimmer said he won't be afraid to play rookies, and that includes Teddy Bridgewater if he earns a starting role.

Mike Zimmer isn't making any announcements on his starting quarterback or even a date at which he wants to do that, but Teddy Bridgewater being a rookie doesn't look like it will be a significant hindrance to Zimmer's outlook with him.

Zimmer said he wasn't sure it was a risk to the long-term future of a quarterback by playing him in his first season.

"I think with that position you have to weigh a lot of different factors – how the defense is, where you're at in the progression of things," the first-year head coach said. "Maybe more so at that position than when you're talking about a safety that handles different things.

"We, as the Vikings, are not afraid to do anything. We're going to make sure that we're diligent in getting this team prepared the best we can. We're hoping we can continue to compete for jobs and get the best guys out there ready to go."

With new schemes on offense and defense, the Vikings have numerous starting positions open for the taking, from quarterback to cornerback to a couple of linebacker positions and safety.

As the Vikings wrapped up minicamp on Thursday, their last practices before the opening of training camp on July 25, veteran quarterback Matt Cassel continued to get the first crack at first-team reps with most sessions in practices. But Bridgewater appeared to be gaining ground as the offseason practices progressed.

During full-team work Thursday, Bridgewater connected on 13 of 14 passes before getting to the two-minute drill, where he completed 8 for 9 (not including two spikes) with a dropped pass. Many of the passes in the two-minute drill were check-downs and players don't wear pads during minicamp, but it still was a testament to his accuracy.

Bridgewater was the final pick of the first round, but linebacker Anthony Barr was the ninth overall pick and he, too, seemed to be gaining some ground on a starting spot the further minicamp progressed this week. Barr was required to miss the 10 organized team activities between rookie minicamp the weekend after the draft and the mandatory minicamp this week because UCLA was still in session.

But there are other rookies that could push for a starting job, like David Yankey at guard or Antone Exum at safety.

"I've never had a problem playing young guys," Zimmer said. "We've had guys that when I was in Dallas we drafted high and started the first day they walked in. We've had several guys in Cincinnati. Geno Atkins played a ton. Carlos Dunlap played a ton his rookie year."

But once training camp opens, Bridgewater will be the most closely watched.

"The one thing we never want to do is hold back progress here," Zimmer said. "We want to keep progressing, whether it's playing younger guys or getting better out on the field."


  • About a dozen Vikings alumni attended the final minicamp practice, including Mick Tingelhoff, Dave Osborne, Bill Brown, Rich Gannon, Rufus Bess, Gene Washington, Stu Voigt and John Swain. Players, coaches and staff hosted the alumni for a barbeque that was supposed to be outside but was moved to the cafeteria because of rain (practice was also held indoors).

    "It's important to me that these guys who have come before us, and given all these players the opportunities they have now, that it means a lot to me I guess because I've seen so many guys come through," Zimmer said. "I grew up and I knew who Mick Tingelhoff was. I just walk down this hallway upstairs, and I see his jersey when I walk by, and Rich Gannon, whom I've talked to numerous times. I want our players that played here to feel like they're always going to be welcome here."

    Zimmer introduced each alumnus individually to the team after practice.

  • LT Matt Kalil, DT Linval Joseph, RB Joe Banyard, S Jamarca Sanford and S Andrew Sendejo continued to sit out of full-team work while recovering from injuries or surgeries. TE Allen Reisner didn't attend minicamp.

  • Zimmer on his first offseason as a head coach: "I feel very secure in everything that we've done to this point. I'm not in awe of any aspect that's happened so far. I think the players have helped a lot in that way, and making it easier to step into a new situation. I told them I appreciated that." He said game-management situations – like when to call timeouts, how to handle different situations and when to throw the challenge flag – will become a focus for him as "areas that I need to get better at."

    Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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