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Already Familiar with Vikings, Hill Working to Boost Chemistry

The most important passes for the Vikings season Thursday night may have been before the opening kickoff.

That statement is not intended to slight anyone who played in the game, just to convey that Shaun Hill and several receiving targets didn't let the first night game inside U.S. Bank Stadium go to waste, even though they knew they were unlikely to play.

Hill and receivers and tight ends worked on several different route combinations to build chemistry on the field as the 15-year veteran prepares to step in for Teddy Bridgewater, whose third pro season ended Tuesday when he suffered a dislocated knee and torn ACL in practice.

"All I know is that I'm going to bring everything I have every single day," Hill said Thursday night. "That's all I've ever done. That's the only way I got a start in this league and part of the reason why I stuck around is that mentality. That's the same mentality I'm going to bring this year."

The Vikings signed Hill for his second stint with the team in spring of 2015, just a couple of months after Bridgewater was named Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year for his ahead-of-the-curve debut season in 2014.

Hill knew what his role would be based on the promise that Bridgewater was showing and readily accepted it. He still pushed the young quarterback with different challenges in practice and helped younger players develop in the past two seasons with consistent performances in practice.

He now knows what to expect in this role and has 34 career starts over the years.

"I feel comfortable with this offense. I feel comfortable with the guys," Hill said. "I've had a chance to work with all of them. I know exactly what Coach (Mike) Zimmer's expecting out of me. I know exactly what Coach (Norv) Turner's expecting out of me. So, I feel good in this role."

Hill-to-Stefon Diggs on multiple occasions was an early highlight during 2015 training camp practices well before Diggs was elevated and led the Vikings with 52 receptions for 720 yards last season.

Hill was 25-of-34 passing for 236 yards with three touchdown passes, two interceptions and a rating of 97.2 in the 2015 preseason. He went 17-of-25 passing for 192 yards and a passer rating of 90.8 in three preseason contests this season, including somewhat of a surprise start in place of Bridgewater at Seattle.

Rudolph said Hill's impressive play against the Seahawks is encouraging for the whole team.

"He played with us and played against their starters for the first half, and we had an 11-nothing lead going into halftime," Rudolph said. "So, he's more than capable, and we have all the confidence in the world in Shaun. And I have all the confidence in the world in the rest of the guys in this locker room that we'll be just fine.

"It's great when you have a guy who can just step right in, a guy who's handled himself as a professional for the past two years and put himself in a situation to come out and have success," Rudolph added. "That's what your job is as a backup quarterback – to try to come in and make sure that we don't miss a beat."

Captain Munnerlyn said Hill's experience in prior seasons and at Seattle this preseason will help his approach.

"He's calm, cool and collected. He's one of those triple-C guys," Munnerlyn said. "Everybody on this team has faith in Shaun. Look what he did in the preseason against Seattle. He went out there, and they have a great defense, but he went out there and he held it down. The offense didn't miss a beat."

An insight that Hill has at this stage of his career is knowing he doesn't have to fill the gap all by himself. He can turn to three-time rushing champ Adrian Peterson, whom Hill called "every quarterback's dream."

"But not just him, everybody in this whole locker room," Hill said. "We've got a good team. So that's a huge help." 

Hill has shown the ability to distribute the ball throughout the offense, finding the best option for the football, whether receivers, tight ends or running backs on different plays, similar to the way that Bridgewater has dished the pigskin the past two seasons. The extra year in the system is a benefit, even for a player who has seen as much football as Hill.

"That helps a lot. It really does. The more repetition you have in this stuff, the better you are," Hill said. "You understand why things are in the game plan on Wednesday instead of maybe on Saturday it finally clicks like, 'OK, that's what we're doing'. As soon as you see it on a piece of paper on Wednesday and you've got some experience in the offense, it helps a lot."

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