EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –Tampa Bay is preparing for both Sam Bradford and Case Keenum, and both Vikings quarterbacks are preparing for the Buccaneers defense.
It has yet to be determined who will lead the Vikings huddle on Sunday after Bradford was sidelined at Pittsburgh with a knee injury, but if Keenum is called on again, the veteran said he'll be ready to go.
Sunday's game at U.S. Bank Stadium will mark nearly a year to the day since Keenum led the Rams to a 37-32 win at Tampa Bay. He finished the game 14-of-26 passing for 190 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
In 2015, Keenum also had a big showing against the Buccaneers. He completed 14 of 17 passes for 234 yards with two touchdowns and did not throw an interception, totaling a passer rating of 158.0, which is three-tenths shy of the NFL max.
Buccaneers Head Coach Dirk Koetter, who was Tampa Bay's offensive coordinator in 2015 before being promoted to head coach for the 2016 season, said he's readying his team for either quarterback. But Keenum's backup designation in Minnesota doesn't cause Koetter to take him lightly.
"We better prepare like crazy for Case. He's beat us the past two years – so we have a ton of respect for him," Koetter told Twin Cities media via conference call Wednesday. "And of course, Sam put on a quarterback clinic in that New Orleans game to open the season. So whichever way it goes, we know we're going to have our hands full."
Keenum said the Vikings offense has "a heck of a challenge" in facing the Bucs defense, noting also that Tampa Bay is rolling into Minnesota with momentum after a big 29-7 win over the Bears on Sunday.
And Keenum is quite familiar with one of Tampa Bay's biggest defensive weapons.
"Up front, Gerald McCoy, [he's] one of the premier guys in this league," Keenum said. "And the linebacking crew is [made up of] fast guys who can play, and they're solid on the back end, too. So we've got our work cut out for us."
Bradford last played the Buccaneers in 2012, also with the Rams, and posted a passer rating of 81.7. He was 13-of-27 passing for 196 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. While it's been five seasons since he last battled the NFC South team, he's no stronger to McCoy and the kind of pressure he can pose to the pocket.
In fact, Bradford and McCoy are friends off the field. The former Sooners were drafted No. 1 and No. 3 overall, respectively, in 2010.
"Gerald is a really great player, obviously someone I grew up with and played with at Oklahoma," Bradford said. "We've got to make sure we handle him up front because he has the ability to wreck games. And then their front seven is just really athletic. They make a lot of plays, and handling that front seven is going to be our biggest challenge."
When asked about his recent success against Tampa Bay, Keenum emphasized that although some similarities remain – defensive coordinator Mike Smith is in his second season with the team – it's important to remember that rosters and schemes are constantly evolving.
"Every year is a different team. I'm on a different team now," Keenum said. "So it's hard to compare years. But like I said, with this defense coming in, it's a great defense, and we're going to have to be at our best in order to do well."