EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. —Listen closely, the Vikings offense has been speaking in code.
But the shortened play calls are not just to confuse the defense or go on the sly, the single words are actually meant to help streamline communication for quarterback Sam Bradford and Minnesota's offense.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said Thursday that using a string of words, letters and numbers for calls can make them "wordy."
Instead, the Vikings have used a single word to call a play, like warrior or dodge for example, Vikings Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner said. The code names have helped Bradford, who has been with the team just five weeks after being acquired in a trade on Sept. 3, jell with his teammates.
The single and simple word, Turner noted, lets the receivers, tight ends and running backs know which route to run, as long as they memorize and match the right route with the right word. And it tips off the offensive line on how to block.
Turner picked out the warrior play call from his time as the head coach with the Chargers. He's used numbers, letters and words for decades to provide instructions to each player.
"That play, warrior, that play when we ran it in San Diego, was '5-72 F9 swing,'" Turner said. "So, it was 'gone right 5-72 H-arrow F9 swing.' So, warrior is much easier, but the numbering system and calling it tells everyone what to do.
"There's give and take, and our guys have really handled the names well," he added. "They've taken it on themselves to learn them and respond, and we've had very few mental errors with the names."
Both Turner and Zimmer praised Vikings players for being quick studies on code names, some of which change week to week depending on the opponent. So if warrior was a certain play last week against the Giants, it might be a different play Sunday against the Texans.
"You'd like them to know what to do when they start to hear the numbers, because they're the same plays over and over again, but no question," Turner said. "If you're using code names, and then, you're not using the same code names every week – or you're playing someone in your division or you're playing someone like when we played Carolina – there's a lot of the same code names, so we had to change some of them.
"Because you certainly don't want to tell them what you're doing," he added.
Vikings wide receiver Charles Johnson spent the 2013 season learning Turner's system in Cleveland while he recovered from a knee injury. The Vikings signed Johnson off the Browns practice squad in 2014.
Johnson still takes copious notes to make sure he is prepared either way — whether Bradford rattled off the entire play call, or just used a single word to rev up the pace of the Vikings offense.
"You say one word, and everybody knows what to do, so I'm familiar with that a lot," Johnson said. "I learn it all the same, whether it's long verbiage or numbers. I don't just learn positions.
"I learn the whole concept, so when I write stuff down in my book, I don't write Xs and Zs. I write numbers, 1, 2, 3, so I have to understand each and every position," Johnson said. "It makes things a little easier on the quarterback. He doesn't have to 'da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da,' so it helps us all out."