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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Notebook: Vikings want Bridgewater assertive now for when it’s ‘his baby’ later

By Andrew Krammer

INDIANAPOLIS — Mike Zimmer has seen Teddy Bridgewater buck.

Bridgewater, the Vikings’ young franchise quarterback entering his third NFL season, is known for his even-keel approach. Though since the middle of last season, his first full year as starter, Zimmer has called for a more assertive Bridgewater, specifically when crafting game plans. Zimmer says he’s seen flashes of that trait in his personality, recalling a practice preceded by the coach correcting Bridgewater in front of his teammates.

“For that practice, he gave me exactly what I want — to an overabundance,” Zimmer said. “So, that was his way of saying ‘here you go.’ It’s kind of good, he has to be able to, that thing like…I don’t want to say it. Like, ‘screw you. This is what you want, here.’ So I’m kind of glad he did it.”

Bridgewater, 23, came out of college a year early. He made his first NFL start when he was just 21 years old and found himself in a franchise led by veteran coaches in Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner, as well as a future Hall of Fame running back in Adrian Peterson. So listening more than talking certainly sounds like a good idea.

But the Vikings need to operate an offense where Bridgewater is comfortable enough to succeed, especially as Peterson enters the twilight of his NFL career. They started to find the right approach toward the end of last season. In December, Bridgewater threw for a career-high 335 yards against a strong defense in Arizona. The following week, he said everybody was comfortable with that game plan.

With the hiring of both offensive line coach Tony Sparano and tight ends coach Pat Shurmur, Zimmer expects to have more strong-willed and experienced voices in meeting rooms. When the quarterback is involved, they want Bridgewater’s voice to be one that’s loud and clear.

More assertion also applies on the field, where Bridgewater “has that subconscious thing,” Zimmer said, which can prevent him from taking risks out of fear of interceptions.

“If I come back next year, if I’m still here, what I want to say is ‘man, Teddy really took over this offense. He was really in charge of everything he did here. He took charge of the league,’” Zimmer said. “Whatever that means. If it’s getting us in the right place, if it’s throwing the ball more, if it’s throwing the ball less. Just taking charge of this thing. It’s going to be his baby eventually.”

Seeking safety upgrade?

In each of his four NFL seasons, Vikings safety Harrison Smith has started next to a different teammate in the season opener.

Smith led the Vikings’ fifth-ranked scoring defense with eight All-Pro votes and is expected to sign a multi-year extension this offseason. Now they’re searching for a similar mainstay alongside him, specifically a player with ‘other qualities’ that could free up Smith to do more on defense.

“Well, I think this — If Harrison Smith was paired with a guy that had some other qualities, we could allow Harrison to be more of an impactful player,” Zimmer said. “I don’t know if that answers your question or not, but I think Harrison can be more impactful if he had the right kind of guy next to him.”

Andrew Sendejo held down the spot last season, starting a career-high 14 games. The year before it was Robert Blanton. Both players are set to hit free agency next month unless they sign new deals with the Vikings. Zimmer simply said “I don’t know” when asked if the ‘right kind’ of guy was currently on the roster. The Vikings also have third-year safety Antone Exum Jr. and second-year safety Anthony Harris.

No surgery for Griffen

Despite playing with an injured shoulder at the end of last season, Everson Griffen didn’t miss a game because of it and led the team with 10.5 sacks. Griffen was rewarded with his first Pro Bowl appearance last month, and Zimmer anticipated he may undergo an operation to repair what Zimmer said was ‘probably’ a labrum tear. “I don’t know how bad it was torn or anything else,” he said.

Griffen, 28, hasn’t undergone surgery and may not need it.

“He has not had it,” Zimmer said. “I think they’re going to do another check with him. The doctor said at this point in time, he doesn’t think we need to. So he would not do it. So he’s going to continue to rehab and, I don’t know the exact date he’s going back, unless it’s changed he’s not going to have anything.”

‘As tough as ever’

The Vikings put an end to the Green Bay Packers’ four-year reign over the NFC North with a division-clinching win at Lambeau Field last month. The Packers’ Mike McCarthy is the third-longest tenured head coach in the league, and the most in the division by eight seasons.

He estimates next season could be one of the most competitive he’s seen from all four teams. The Vikings are reigning division champs, the Detroit Lions cleaned out the front office and plucked general manager Bob Quinn from New England, while the Chicago Bears also cleaned out their cupboards and figure to improve in the second season under head coach John Fox.

“I think our division is as tough as ever,” McCarthy said. “I think the years, particularly this year, could be our toughest.”

The post Notebook: Vikings want Bridgewater assertive now for when it’s ‘his baby’ later appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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