As dire as things seem right now for the Minnesota Vikings in the aftermath of the devastating knee injury suffered by Teddy Bridgewater at Tuesday’s practice, the harsh reality of the NFL is that time goes on and the games get played by those who are in uniform. It’s the one true reality of the NFL.
As such, the second home preseason game at U.S. Bank Stadium is going to have a much different feel, but in many ways, could have been very different as the Vikings meet up with the Los Angeles Rams.
For years, the Vikings attempted to get a new stadium, but had a state government that balked at the notion of contributing any significant money to a stadium – to the point that the Los Angeles Vikings were a distinct possibility.
When the Vikings and the State of Minnesota finally cut a deal to keep the team in its home, Los Angeles went in search of franchises with “out” clauses in their stadium deals and stadiums that weren’t up to snuff with the current rage of football palaces being built.
San Diego and Oakland seemed like logical options. Both were already in California and both were hitting stone walls when it came to government cooperation in the construction of stadiums. But with the push of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones behind it, momentum built around moving the St. Louis franchise despite a strong effort being made by local and state government officials to give owner Stan Kroenke a new stadium along the Mississippi riverfront that could compete with the rest of the NFL much better than the utilitarian Edward Jones Dome could.
Undaunted, the vote was made and the Rams are in L.A., uprooting all of their players and coaches and heading west.
Being the fourth preseason game, what the Vikings are going to see of the Rams is largely going to be based upon who is expendable in a final regular season tune-up.
You won’t see Todd Gurley or Aaron Donald or Michael Brockers or Robert Quinn or Alec Ogletree or Tavon Austin or Greg Robinson – all first-round draft picks since 2011 that are all key starters in the Rams lineup.
Instead, current first overall draft pick Jared Goff could see time. At first thought, it was expected that Goff would be on the sidelines watching the proceedings because he would be held back pending the first start of his career on Week 1 of the regular season.
As it stands, he has yet to supplant former Texan Case Keenum, who is slated to start the Rams’ regular-season opener. Despite the pre-draft hype, the Rams are holding firm that Goff has yet to show enough to be handed the keys to the offense. That likely won’t last very long, but for now, there’s only Goff and second-year man Sean Mannion to hold down the passing duties against the Vikings tomorrow night.
Many of the critical decisions for the finalized rosters of the Rams and Vikings have likely already been made to a great degree. The players who will be on the field in the second half of Thursday’s game – if not the final three quarters – will be looking to keep their dreams of playing in the NFL alive. They have been stars since they first put on shoulder pads, but, for many of them, this will be the end of the line.
For them, the primary purpose of Thursday’s game will be to put their work on film for 31 other teams to take a look. All that will matter is that one scout or one coach sees something from that film that gets them to take a longer look at that player.
By Sunday, there are going to be more than 700 players told – ironically on Labor Day weekend – that they are unemployed. At a time when Los Angeles fans are giddy about the return of the NFL after more than two decades away and Vikings fans are hanging their purple flags at half-mast, the world of the NFL inexorably rolls on – with or without the starters who will be spending their night on the sidelines or those who may be playing NFL football for the last time.
The Vikings-Rams game won’t be remembered by others than those who will see U.S. Bank Stadium for the first time as an epic game. For the Vikings, it will be the first step in moving forward without their quarterback. For the Rams, it will be the next step in the path of their quarterback of the future.
[JOIN THE VIKINGS DISCUSSION, CLICK HERE]
For the guys playing, it will be a life or death struggle to make enough plays to get the attention of those whose job it is to identify talent. The fans in Minnesota aren’t really much in the mood for Thursday night football. Fans in Los Angeles are happy. Fans in St. Louis have it worse.
Welcome to the last preseason game, sports fans.