EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Ideally, the Minnesota Vikings will make it through the 2014 season with older journeyman quarterback Matt Cassel playing consistently enough to keep former first-rounder Christian Ponder on the bench and future franchise hopeful Teddy Bridgewater out of sight and mind until he has been properly groomed to assume control in 2015.
But this is the NFL. Even the only perfect season in league history — the 1972 Dolphins — needed more than one starting quarterback to complete.
So do not be surprised if some bumps in the road result in Bridgewater starting sooner than later. This is, after all, a weary franchise that has lost 13 and 10 games in two of the past three years.
But, for now anyway, the Vikings are doing a good job of convincing people that they are in position to compete with Cassel while being patient as Bridgewater learns at the knee of well-respected offensive coordinator and noted QB guru Norv Turner. Helping their spin, of course, is the fact Bridgewater was taken in a trade up to No. 32 rather than eighth overall.
“We don’t have to play him before he’s ready,” general manager Rick Spielman said. “We have all the confidence in Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder.”
New coach Mike Zimmer continued to preach patience at the team’s rookie minicamp a week after the draft.
“Like all rookies, (Bridgewater) starts out at the bottom of the depth chart,” he said.
To his credit, Bridgewater is saying the right thing about where he belongs, which, for now, is behind two veterans.
“Matt and Christian have been here for a while now,” said Bridgewater, who worked with them during some offseason conditioning drills before the rookie minicamp. “Those guys have been taking me under their wing and teaching me from a field standpoint and a film standpoint.”
Zimmer said Bridgewater will be given some first-team reps during OTAs and the team’s minicamp just so he can experience the speed and timing of playing with the starting receivers and running back Adrian Peterson. According to Zimmer, it’s something Bridgewater has earned based on how hard he has worked to prepare himself in just the short time since being drafted.
As an example, Zimmer cited a simple individual drill in which Bridgewater had to throw an out route to a receiver.
“It wasn’t like, ‘Hey, I’m throwing an out now,’ ” Zimmer said. “He would say the whole formation, the whole play, what it’s on and go from there, just repeat it as he goes. That was impressive.”
During the one rookie minicamp practice that was open to the media, Bridgewater looked like one would expect a first-round pick to look like when mostly surrounded by rookie free-agent acquisitions and others trying out to become rookie free-agent acquisitions.
He displayed nice arm strength and a quick release but the team execution and completion percentage were shaky, as expected.
“I think I did a pretty good job from a mental and physical standpoint,” he said.
“He’s throwing the ball good,” Zimmer added. “I think he’s got a good presence, a good command of the way he’s taking things.”
Notes: Three of the Vikings’ 10 draft picks, including ninth overall selection Anthony Barr, an outside linebacker, will miss a chunk of the team’s OTA training dates because of the NFL rule limiting a player’s participation if his school is still in session and he has not graduated. The Vikings selected three players from Pac-12 schools, which are on the quarter system that runs into June. Oregon State defensive end Scott Crichton, the team’s third-round pick, and Stanford offensive lineman David Yankey, the team’s fifth-round pick, also are affected.