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MURPHY: For Hill, spurning is just business as usual

MINNEAPOLIS -- Shaun Hill has been a quarterback bridesmaid so long, his Vikings uniform was made from recycled jerseys he will never wear again. Pardon the 11-year veteran for thinking 2016 would be his time to finally carry a team across the th...

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Shaun Hill talks on the sidelines during Thursday's game with the Los Angeles Rams at U.S. Bank Stadium. Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Shaun Hill talks on the sidelines during Thursday's game with the Los Angeles Rams at U.S. Bank Stadium. Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS - Shaun Hill has been a quarterback bridesmaid so long, his Vikings uniform was made from recycled jerseys he will never wear again.

Pardon the 11-year veteran for thinking 2016 would be his time to finally carry a team across the threshold when general manager Rick Spielman, coach Mike Zimmer and anguished teammates tossed confidence bouquets at Hill's feet last week after Teddy Bridgewater mangled his knee.

Spielman eyed a more attractive quarterback in Philadelphia, stuffing first- and fourth-round draft picks into the Eagles' dowry to have Sam Bradford's hand in a shotgun marriage.

Hill might make it to the altar Sunday against the Tennessee Titans if Bradford cannot master Minnesota's playbook by week's end.

Zimmer said Wednesday that he will not publicly name a starter for the season opener, which means the parlor game will continue through warm-ups at Nashville's Nissan Stadium unless Spielman first sends white smoke up the chimney of one of his national TV chums.

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Hill led the first team during quarterback drills Wednesday before the media was banished. For once, subterfuge actually makes sense. Zimmer will keep the fantasy geeks guessing while he and offensive coordinator Norv Turner "deliberate and decide."

Typically, the starting quarterback follows the head coach to the podium for dual Wednesday news conferences. Hill initially was listed before the team announced he and Bradford would address the media separately in the locker room.

Tea leaves everywhere.

Hill answered questions first, which meant he probably finished lunch before Bradford.

He was "shocked" when Zimmer told him Saturday morning the Vikings had traded for Bradford, just like everyone else reacting to the news, although Hill insisted he knew nothing until arriving to Winter Park.

"I don't read anything you guys write. When I watch TV, I watch Disney Junior," said the father of two young children. "So, unless it scrolls across the bottom on Disney Junior, chances are I won't see it."

Hill certainly knows the drill if called to duty: Prepare as if, protect the ball, quell the crisis.

No whining. No pining. Just win. Then get out of the way.

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"I stay in my lane," he said. "I keep that narrow focus. It's worked for me."

In the 72 hours following Bridgewater's catastrophic injury, Hill was the proclaimed savior, and the Vikings closed ranks around him, secure in his experience as a wily steward for an offense predicated on using Adrian Peterson as a battering ram and a play-making defense designed to grind down opponents.

"Always and forever, defense wins championships," said defensive end Everson Griffen.

Relying on Hill to start 16 games on a division champion hunting bigger game would have been front-office malpractice. The 36-year-old has averaged three starts a year since a 2005 kneel-down during his first go-around with the Vikings.

Rejection still burns, especially when it is so transparent.

Entering his second season in Minnesota, Hill knows the Vikings' offense. Deepening the intrigue, he also knows Bradford, having replaced the former No. 1 overall pick in St. Louis in 2014 when he suffered his second torn ACL in as many years.

Reunited, they not only are competing for Sunday's starting job but practice reps.

Tennessee coach Mike Mularkey insisted his team is not preparing any differently without knowing which Vikings quarterback will start, although he is taking his cue from the bounty Minnesota has invested in Bradford.

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"They wouldn't give up a 1 and a 4 to have a guy sit very long," he said.

What's this, an NFL coach using logic and deduction talking to the media? Mularkey should be in a straight-jacket.

Whoever goes under center Sunday - a more-prepared Hill, the more-talented Bradford - Minnesota is a Week 1 favorite expected to dictate tempo and terms against the rebuilding Titans.

Conspiracy theorists are staring right through the big picture. All this Bradford-Hill chatter just means Matt Cassel will be summoned to replace Titans starter Marcus Mariota and be a major factor in the outcome.

That would bring the Vikings' perpetual quarterback drama full circle.

Related Topics: FOOTBALL
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