LONDON —The overseas environment and defensive scheme of the Browns won't be foreign concepts for Vikings quarterback* *Case Keenum Sunday at Twickenham Stadium.
Keenum played at Twickenham Stadium in 2016 as a member of the Rams and liked the venue* *despite suffering a 17-10 loss to the Giants. He also overlapped for two seasons with former St. Louis/Los Angeles Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams, who is now with Cleveland.
Keenum was asked on Friday about the hallmark of a defense led by Williams.
"There's a lot of things. That's part of it, the fact that you might not know what the hallmark is, so I've been around him enough to know that he's got something up his sleeve for every situation," Keenum said. "It's just a matter of being prepared or being prepared for the unexpected. I'm excited. It will be a tough game, a tough opponent and in a great atmosphere.
"It's one of those things where you never know where the pressure is coming from, so you need to be prepared for pressure from anywhere," Keenum later added.
Pressure won't be coming from Browns edge rusher Myles Garrett, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft who did not make the trip to London because he is in the concussion protocol.
"Obviously he's a great player," Keenum said. "I don't think they're going to play with 10. They're going to put in 11 guys, and whoever else is in there is a good player also. It's still a great front, still the scheme. We have our work cut out for us and have to be on top of our game with everything."
Keenum, who is 3-2 as a starter in place of Kyle Rudolph and was instrumental in Minnesota's win at Chicago, has talked about how important mental preparations have been to him and again mentioned it Friday.
"There's not a lot of reps going around during the week, as far as the amount of plays we have in the game plan and the amount of reps we get," Keenum said, "so a lot of it is mental reps and visualizing things, so that's part of what I do all of the time, so to have my mind sharp, I think it's important."
Impact of Vikings defense
A 46-yard punt return by Marcus Sherels last week gave Minnesota the ball at the Baltimore 35, and Keenum took a shot immediately to Laquon Treadwell in 1-on-1 coverage, but the ball was tipped and picked off by Ravens cornerback Brandon Carr.
It was just the second interception of the season by Keenum, who is tied for second in the NFL with an interception percentage of 1.1.
Keenum was asked if the Vikings defense, which ranks fourth in the NFL in yards allowed per game (283.0) and fifth in points allowed per game (17.0), takes pressure off him.
"I don't know if it's less pressure," Keenum said. "It's knowing they make a great defense, and we need to protect the football and not put our defense in a bad spot. I don't know if it changes our mindset, as far as attack or [play] conservative, or if there's less or more pressure. It's just nice to have those guys on our team.
Still wearing his red non-contact practice jersey, Keenum said he's glad to work in conjunction with a squad that has seven interceptions and 21 sacks through seven games.
"It's incredible that I'm on the sideline when our defense is on the field," Keenum said. "I really like going against them in practice a lot more when I'm wearing this red jersey so they don't hit me rather than on the field in live action, so I know that they're very talented. They can put a lot of pressure on opposing teams, especially the quarterbacks, and the fact that they get a lot of turnovers to give us more possessions is a big thing for an offense."
Zimmer said he liked the way that Keenum bounced back last week after the rough start.
"He's had some bad plays, but he's been able to readjust," Zimmer said. "Early in the first half last week, he was a little spotty, but then he settled down and made plays, [we had] adjustments by the offensive staff. He's done a nice job, and we're very fortunate that we have him."
Vikings Owner/President Mark Wilf attended Friday's practice at Hazelwood Centre and spoke to members of the media about the **Vikings second London experience**.
Wilf also spoke about what he's observed from a team that has started 5-2 in consecutive seasons.
"I really like where the team is. I know Coach Zimmer and [Vikings General Manager] Rick Spielman have done a great job in terms about being about 'next man up.' I know we've talked about that, but this year I really have a good feeling in what that means.
"We have faced adversity, but the attitude of our team and the veterans and the leadership and the locker room is that we just get out there and play the next play," Wilf said. "They're about their business. I think the depth has improved considerably this year. From all standpoints, we like where this team is. But we're just about the next game, and I think that professionalism is starting to take hold here. This team knows you can't rest on any laurels, certainly in the NFL. We're just about playing the Cleveland Browns on Sunday."
Last season, the Vikings started 5-0 but then lost four straight and six of seven as injuries mounted. Wilf said Zimmer's leadership and the experience from last year has instilled the importance to not take anything for granted.
Encouraged by Bridgewater's progress
Stefon Diggs, who suffered a dislocated knee in August 2016, is in his second week of practices while remaining on the Physically Unable to Perform List. The Vikings have a 21-day window to assess Bridgewater.
Wilf said he's impressed by the way Bridgewater handled his extended rehab.
"Well, it's a fantastic feeling. I know what this team feels about Teddy, what we feel about him and what the fanbase does, but we're in a good situation here," Wilf said. "Case Keenum has really stepped up and done an outstanding job. Sam Bradford is a great quarterback. Teddy is a great quarterback, so we're in a good position. Right now, we're focused on this week. I know Coach Zimmer has the team focused."
Harrison on Harris
The Vikings will be without Bradford, Jeremiah Sirles and Stephen Weatherly **because of injuries**. They'll also be without safety Andrew Sendejo because of a one-game suspension that Sendejo received because of a hit against the Ravens.
Sendejo missed Week 6 against Green Bay, and the Vikings turned to third-year pro Anthony Harris.
Two-time Pro Bowler Harrison Smith said "it's not difficult" to adjust to Harris instead of Sendejo because the Vikings rotated in the secondary during practices this offseason. He said he has "great communication" with Harris.
"I've played with him a few years now, [and] he's stepped in and done an awesome job," Smith said.
Smith said it was tough that Sendejo received the suspension.
"He's one of my good buddies off the field," Smith said. "I mean, he loves the game, so he wants to be on the plane with us, in the meetings with us, playing on game day. But it is what it is."
'Like a king'
Everson Griffen's sack and forced fumble helped the Vikings finish off the Steelers in 2013, the most-recent Minnesota game in London.
He was asked by members of the media about his previous experience and this time around. Griffen said he's enjoyed both trips and explained advice that the team has received on how to best combat jet lag.
"Both of the hotels [we've stayed] at were gorgeous," Griffen said. "The one we stayed at was probably an hour away – what was it called, the Garden? – The Grove, yeah, it was amazing. But this hotel's nice. The [Syon Park] Hilton's very nice, it's beautiful.
"I'm sleeping like a king in my big old king-sized bed with my TV that comes out of the box, so I'm loving that," Griffen added. "They got gold trim. I don't know, they had a sleep guy from Sleep Number come talk to us about our sleep schedule and how you're supposed to wear your blue-blocker glasses and your sunglasses, so I've been following that. I feel good. Last night I slept from 9:30 to 7:30, so I got a good amount of sleep, so I feel like I'm caught up. But I think we're probably going to have a little bit of drag during the day, but I feel caught up, and I feel rested and ready to go."