One of two first-round picks for the Minnesota Vikings, Bridgewater has been getting some of the first-team snaps with the starters during the first two weeks of training camp, although veteran Matt Cassel remains atop the depth chart and has taken more reps with the starters.
But as Bridgewater contends for the top spot by the regular-season opener, Zimmer said it will be important for the coaches to see how he handles himself during game situations.
“When the lights come on, it’s a different deal. It will be good for him and how he reacts to seeing defenses that he hasn’t seen very much of,” Zimmer said. “How he has to readjust the blitz, how he has to get the ball out and make the right calls, how he plays under pressure. I anticipate he’s going to play very well.”
Zimmer, an aggressive defensive mind, said he has intentionally put more defensive looks in front of Bridgewater to prepare him for the type of situations he anticipates the rookie will see if he earns the starting spot during the regular season.
“Right now I’m just pretty excited. Can’t wait,” Bridgewater said. “… This is what we’re here to do, play football, and it’s finally here. I’m just excited.
“It’s important for me to maximize all of the playing time that I get. For all the young guys, we’re just all competing and trying to earn a spot on this roster and we just want to take advantage of every rep.”
He said he doesn’t know what to expect from defenses, especially in the first preseason game, but he is also concentrating more on the offense at this point in his NFL immersion, especially with the complex offense of coordinator Norv Turner that the players are tasked to learn.
Zimmer said it is important for Bridgewater to get game time with the starting offensive line, and the quarterback acknowledged the importance of making sure he sets the protections properly.
“I haven’t taken a hit yet in the National Football League and it feels like a hundred years since I’ve actually taken a hit, since my college bowl game. I’m just looking forward to Friday night and have to make sure I’m sharp with the protections and everything.
“Coach Zimmer, he’s talked about outworking, outsmarting and outplaying your opponent. Those are the three factors going into this game.”
Under previous coaching staffs, the Vikings have typically rested numerous starters in the preseason opener. This year, however, with Zimmer as a first-year head coach and players learning new schemes on offense and defense, running back Adrian Peterson is expected to be the only healthy starter held out. The starters haven’t been told how much they will play Friday night, but they do know what will determine when their night is done.
“We’ve talked about how long we want to play them. I told the team to be ready to play the whole game if I feel like it,” Zimmer said.
But there is incentive being held in front of them.
“Coach told us in a meeting the other night that he’ll keep playing us until he figures things are right, so we’ve got to go out there, execute right off the bat and hopefully get out there early,” defensive end Brian Robison said. “But bottom line is he told us he’s not going to put a number on it. We’re going to go out there until he feels good about it.”
Zimmer said the Vikings will be very basic with their calls, but he wants them to play fast and show off their athleticism within the schemes.
For Bridgewater, that means getting the ball out of his hand quickly and into the hands of his offensive playmakers.
“I noticed that he’s trying to do it more, even today in the walk-through, trying to get the ball out,” Zimmer said. “I was talking to Rich Gannon some yesterday about young quarterbacks. It’s trying to get the game to slow down so they anticipate the things that are going on and then once the ball is snapped, their anticipation, what they see confirms what they’re anticipating will happen. It takes time with young guys, but he has so much talent and so much ability. He’s such a good kid, works so hard that it’ll come.”
WEDNESDAY P.M. NOTES
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.