EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Minnesota Vikings begin a stretch of four home games in five weeks, but no one is quite sure how to feel about this team’s near future with quarterback Sam Bradford’s status still uncertain heading into Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay.
Bradford said Wednesday that his left knee feels better than it did on Sunday when he had to miss the Vikings’ loss at Pittsburgh. A week earlier, he twisted the knee, but didn’t miss a snap while posting a career-high 143.0 passer rating and winning NFC Offensive Player of the Week in a 10-point win over the Saints.
“I would like to think (my chances of playing) are good,” Bradford said. “But I think a lot of it just depends on how my knee responds when we go out there and practice this week.”
Bradford was listed on Wednesday’s injury report as being “limited” in practice. He left the field before the end of practice.
Bradford tore the ACL in his left knee in 2013 and 2014. Against the Saints, he twisted the same knee while sustaining no contact on the play.
Head coach Mike Zimmer didn’t shed much light on the situation Wednesday. He said Bradford was “doing good,” but that the decision to play him or not likely will come down to game day for the second week in a row.
Bradford seemed to genuinely not know whether the knee will be stable enough to allow him to play.
“I’ve been through a lot with this knee,” Bradford said. “I’ve played through quite a few different bumps and bruises with it. I think every time that I’ve done that, you just know. I don’t think there’s a checkmark or a benchmark you’ve got to meet. You’ve got to be able to play quarterback. You’ve got to be able to do what the position requires you to do. If you’re not able to do those things during practice, it’s hard to be able to do them during a game.”
If Bradford can’t play, Case Keenum will get his second straight start. The situation won’t be as difficult as Sunday’s was in Pittsburgh’s home opener, but clearly the Vikings are a much weaker team with him at quarterback.
Meanwhile, the Vikings’ defense will get its first look at Jameis Winston. The first player in NFL history to start his career with two straight 4,000-yard seasons now directs an offense with the added element of sheer speed in receiver DeSean Jackson.
“(Winston) is a very talented guy, very strong arm, moves well in the pocket, gets out of the pocket and he makes big plays,” Zimmer said. “He’s looking to throw the ball down the field. He’s got two excellent receivers, actually he’s got a few guys. I think he believes he can make every throw and sometimes he’s going to take his opportunities to throw it.
“And sometimes, when he gets in trouble, he can throw it up to (receiver Mike) Evans, who’s a big guy who can go get it.”
Defensively, the Vikings are healthy and talented enough to handle the Bucs at home. The question is will they have what they need offensively?
SERIES HISTORY: 55th regular-season meeting. Vikings lead series, 32-22. The former NFC Central foes haven’t met since 2014. The Vikings won at Tampa Bay 19-13 in overtime when then-rookie linebacker Anthony Barr stripped the ball from a Buccaneer and raced 27 yards for a touchdown on the first snap of overtime. Before that, the Bucs had won six straight in the series, including a 36-17 victory in Minnesota in 2012. This is the first meeting at U.S. Bank Stadium.
–Who needs Sam Bradford?
The Vikings have Jameis Winston/Tampa Bay killer Case Keenum locked and loaded.
“I know we’ll have to really make sure we’re prepared for Case Keenum,” Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter said. “He’s beaten us the last two times we’ve played him.”
Keenum, the Vikings’ backup quarterback this season, didn’t play well at Pittsburgh last week. But he’s 2-0 against Tampa Bay and 7-16 against the rest of the league.
Both wins came while Keenum was with the Rams. In 2015, he posted a 158.0 passer rating. He completed 14 of 17 passes for 234 yards, two touchdowns and no turnovers that day.
–Normally, the Vikings have their starting quarterback go to the podium for his weekly Wednesday press conference during the season.
This week, however, with uncertainty surrounding Sam Bradford’s playing status, the Vikings decided to make Bradford and backup Case Keenum available to reporters in the locker room.
Keenum, who was forced to start last week in Pittsburgh, went first.
Near the end of Keenum’s press conference, Vikings public relations official Tom West announced that there would be only two more questions.
He announced this by saying, “Last couple for Sam.”
Keenum looked over at him.
“Who’s Sam?” he joked. “It’s just ingrained in his head.”
At least Keenum can think on his feet.
“It’s alright, Phil,” Keenum said. “I mean, Tom.”
NOTES: WR Adam Thielen has a league-high five catches over 20 yards. Working some out of the slot has helped Thielen’s development and makes him tougher to defend. He’s tied with DeSean Jackson for most 100-yard receiving games since Week 14 of last season (three). … DE Everson Griffen had his ninth multi-sack game last week. He has seven since he became a starter in 2014. That’s fourth-most in the NFL since 2012. … PR Marcus Sherels set the franchise record for punt return yards last week. He has 1,822, surpassing Leo Lewis’ 1,812. … LB Anthony Barr, who played 73 snaps on Sunday despite being listed as questionable on the injury report, was listed as “limited” with a hamstring injury in Wednesday’s practice. … CB Xavier Rhodes, who had an excellent game against Antonio Brown despite being listed as questionable for last Sunday’s game, was on Wednesday’s injury report with a hip injury. But he was listed as having full participation.
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