INDIANAPOLIS —- It has been 11 months since Teddy Bridgewater’s infamous pro day and about eight since the Vikings disregarded the poor performance that they had seen that day and traded up to select Bridgewater late in the first round of the draft.
Once he got on the field in 2014, Bridgewater, of course, looked more like the quarterback the Vikings saw on tape after a decorated college career at Louisville than the guy without gloves who was spraying errant passes all over the practice field in that workout. Bridgewater went 6-6 as a starter and was one of the most accurate rookie passers in NFL history.
Just a little bit ago, at his official combine press conference, Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman was given an opportunity by a non-Minnesota reporter to take a victory lap of sorts. He was asked to describe what impressed him about Bridgewater, and Spielman, a few days before this year’s crop of draft-eligible quarterbacks will chuck passes here, made sure he brought up that pro day.
“I’m thankful the media did him a disservice, in my opinion, last year by judging him in on his pro day,” he said.
After his jab at the reporters on hand, Spielman went on to explain the process of anchoring players on his board based on their on-field performance and how the Vikings try to resist the urge to move players up or down based on how they fare at the combine or at their pro days.
“One thing that we try to do, our process, is that we had our draft meetings before we came down and we put all the player on a board and graded him purely off what seen off tape or what we seen live as football players,” he said. “All this other stuff that will accumulate here and over the next couple months will start to add into it, but it’s not going to be a situation where a guy having a sixth-round [grade] goes all the way up to the first round because he comes out here and he runs fast in his shorts. Or it’s not going to be a situation where a guy has a bad pro day where all the sudden we’re going to forget the 47 games that he was productive on the tape if you’ve watched him play the last three or four or years.
“You’ve just got to be careful. It’s part of the process. All the information to gather that you use to make your decisions, but it has to come back to what he is, not only as a character but what he is as football player.”
INDIANAPOLIS —- A few Minneapolis-based reporters and I sat down a couple of hours ago with General Manager Rick Spielman for a cup of coffee and a chat about the Vikings as the scouting combine kicks off today. He spoke for nearly a half hour, and he touched on a lot of topics. I would just post the full transcript of the conversation, but it would bust this blog and maybe the internet.
Instead, I’ll just pass along a few of the comments that caught my ear.
But first, here is the prerequisite Adrian Peterson non-update de jour.
Spielman was again asked by one of my peers for his stance on Peterson, even though Spielman made it pretty clear a month ago when he said he wanted Peterson to be back with the team in 2015. Those comments have since been echoed by Owner Mark Wilf and new COO Kevin Warren.
“Me and [Coach Mike Zimmer], I think you guys have a pretty good idea where we’re at on it,” he said. “And I think our whole organization is on the same page. And I stated what I stated when I talked with you guys after the season. What team wouldn’t want to have an Adrian Peterson talent?”
I asked Spielman if he wished he could tell Peterson that man to man.
“I’m sure he reads the paper,” Spielman said with a grin.
While Spielman said he “expects” Peterson to play for the Vikings this season, he declined to comment on whether Peterson would have to take a pay cut to do so.
Spielman said the Vikings — and likely other teams — will have to be warier of college prospects with question marks about their character because of the way that the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell have dropped the hammer this season when it comes to off-the-field conduct.
“I think you have to be very conscientious of that, especially with the new personal conduct policy,” he said. “With the way everything is nowadays, these kids have to realize that, and I can’t speak for every team, but some teams may have been more lenient but now won’t be as lenient with specific issues that these guys are coming in with, just because of the environment that we’re in right now.”
OK, let’s talk a little football.
Spielman thinks it’s a deep draft class at wide receiver, offensive line, running back, defensive line and cornerback. And he is relieved that he doesn’t have to worry about drafting a quarterback in the first round, though he did say the Vikings, who will likely move on from Christian Ponder, could add a young, development passer at some point during the offseason to be the team’s third QB.
He also hinted that Matt Cassel will be back as Teddy Bridgewater’s primary backup in 2015.
Finally, when our cups of coffee were about empty, Spielman made a point to bring up the Vikings playing in the Hall of Fame Game. They are excited to get that extra preseason game and, perhaps just as important, that they will be able to get a third week of training camp down in Mankato.
“We thought it was a great opportunity for this team to go down to Mankato a week early and get an opportunity for those guys to play an extra preseason game because mostly you’re going to play your starters minimal at most,” he said. “[The fifth game] I think really aids in their development.”
Spielman is scheduled to do a presser with the entire swarming mass of media here in a little bit and will surely be asked about Peterson again. I’ll let you know if there’s an update this time.