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SHIPLEY: Maybe Bridgewater should just take a knee until Week 1

MINNEAPOLIS--A high sky shone over Winter Park on Thursday, the sun up and the humidity down. A gentle southeasterly breeze, the friendly harbinger of autumn, struggled to alter the form of crisply thrown footballs as sparrows flitted happily o'e...

MINNEAPOLIS-A high sky shone over Winter Park on Thursday, the sun up and the humidity down. A gentle southeasterly breeze, the friendly harbinger of autumn, struggled to alter the form of crisply thrown footballs as sparrows flitted happily o'er verdant practice fields.

Teddy Bridgewater, surely beaming behind his facemask, threw crisp passes as far as 35 yards in front a quiet crowd of forest animals - summoned there by the Purple Fairy - who watched through the bent-back tulips in their tiny Vikings jerseys.

Yes, all was well at 9520 Viking Drive.

Even the black-clad, low-life scribes who briefly interrupted this fairy tale with their impertinence last week behaved themselves, asking players about fishing and personal journeys, and head coach Mike Zimmer about anything other than Bridgewater and his would-be backups.

Of course, sometimes that's when you get the answer you're looking for.

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Asked about improvement from Shamar Stephen, a defensive lineman who apparently played quite a bit in the Vikings' two preseason games, Zimmer said something interesting about tackle Tom Johnson, who played all of last season but not as productively as the previous year.

"Last year, we probably played Tom Johnson too many plays in the preseason," Zimmer said. "So we're trying to take some plays off of him."

This is why Bridgewater didn't play in last Thursday's game in Seattle, and it's why he didn't throw a practice pass until Tuesday. It was the impetus for Zimmer's flippant answer to the gremlins when they asked him why he held the starting quarterback out against the Seahawks.

"I sat him," Zimmer said, "because I wanted to."

It was an honest, if incomplete, answer. The Vikings look and smell like a very good football team, one capable of a Super Bowl run, deep at nearly every position. But not at quarterback.

Let's twist the decoder ring a few times.

"I sat him because I wanted to; because I don't want to start Shaun Hill all season."

This is not to slight Shaun Hill too much; he's an NFL quarterback with 34 starts and two 2,000-yard seasons under his belt. But he's on the short side of 36 and hasn't looked particularly good in his few chances with Minnesota. When he became St. Louis' starter because of an injury to Sam Bradford in 2014, Hill threw for 1,657 yards, eight touchdowns and seven interceptions in 14 starts, and the Rams finished 6-10.

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It wasn't long ago that fans and pundits wondered whether Bridgewater would be good enough this fall for the Vikings to improve on last season's 11-5 finish and first NFC North Division title since 2009. Suddenly, the question is what the Vikings will do if he goes down.

Bridgewater probably did have a sore shoulder last week, as reported by ESPN, and it probably threw a scare into Zimmer and everyone else at Winter Park.

There's a reason Adrian Peterson hasn't taken a preseason snap since 2011. Bridgewater, a third-year quarterback with decent credentials, certainly isn't in that category. But on this team, with this window for greatness, it wouldn't be a terrible idea for Bridgewater to sit out Sunday's game against the Chargers and the preseason finale Sept. 1 against the Los Angeles Rams.

That won't happen, of course. There are reasons Bridgewater should see some live action before the regular-season opener Sept. 11 at Tennessee, the least of them being the fact that Zimmer doesn't want to be asked about it again. That's a tough spot for a straight shooter to be in, and with the sunshine and woodland creatures back at Winter Park, it just seems easier to run Bridgewater out there for a few plays.

With fingers crossed, of course.

Related Topics: FOOTBALL
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