MANKATO, Minn. — Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has encouraged quarterback Sam Bradford to show more emotion.
The next step might be to work on the method of sharing said emotion.
Bradford drilled a throw to Stefon Diggs on a corner route for a 16-yard, "game-tying" touchdown to cap a 2-minute drill during Wednesday's practice.
After seeing Diggs haul in the ball and the refs' arms go skyward to signal the score, Bradford rushed the coach to celebrate, surprising Zimmer and knocking him to the ground.
Zimmer got up without harm and later chuckled about it with beat writers before telling them that he got what he had asked for.
"I've been telling him that he needs to celebrate," Zimmer said. "That's what I've been telling him, 'You've got to show some emotion out there.' I'm glad he did it.
"It was a blindside shot, but I told him a quarterback could never hurt me," Zimmer added.
Bradford and the offense started the drive at their own 25-yard line, down six points, with 1:38 on the clock and no timeouts remaining.
He opened with a 15-yard completion to Adam Thielen but had to throw the ball out of bounds on the following play. Bradford got what he could on second down with a 3-yard pass to Dalvin Cook and found the rookie running back a play later to convert third-and-7 with a gain of 10.
Cook deftly got out of bounds to stop the clock after both receptions. A 26-yard pass to Kyle Rudolph followed a play later, moving the ball to the 21-yard line. Bradford tried to connect with Thielen, but it was well covered by Terence Newman.
On second down, Bradford threw the ball out of bounds to avoid what would have been a sack by Danielle Hunter, setting up a third-and-10 with 32 seconds remaining. Bradford used a hard count to draw the defense offsides and on third-and-5, he fired to Diggs.
"[Zimmer] challenged Sam to show more emotion, and he got a little excited," Rudolph said. "Sam came in a little hot there, so he said that a quarterback's never hurt him before."
Zimmer said he liked what Bradford (5-for-8 passing for 75 yards) did during the drive but said the team still has room for improvement in those critical situations.
"He moved in the pocket a little bit, found some check-downs and got out of bounds. It was good," Zimmer said. "That was the first time we've truly done a two-minute drill, so it was kind of good to see. There was too much commotion for my part. We've got to be more composed in those situations. Guys on the sidelines are yelling this and yelling that, and you've got to let them play."
Evaluating "Will" linebacker
Vikings coaches have been evaluating players to determine who will fill the weakside "Will" linebacker position that recently retired Chad Greenway held.
Early in camp, the Vikings alternated first-team reps between Emmanuel Lamur and Edmond Robinson. On Wednesday, they also took a look at rookie Ben Gedeon.
"He's a natural 'Mike' (middle linebacker), but we're looking at him at Will," Zimmer said. "I wanted to look at him today at Will. I'll look at the tape to see."
Asked what he likes about Gedeon, Zimmer said, "He's a football player, he tackles guys, makes plays, gets off blocks and gets to the football."
"We're just trying to get as many good players in there as we can," Zimmer said.
The Vikings already have Anthony Barr cemented at strongside linebacker and Eric Kendricks manning the middle.
Barr and Kendricks have stayed on the field in the team's nickel package and often are used in Zimmer's double A-gap blitz package. Greenway would come off the field in the nickel package, and former nickel corner Captain Munnerlyn would take the field.
An increase in three-receiver sets across the league has led to an increase in the nickel defense and reduced the number of snaps for the Vikings third linebacker.
Zimmer said he's considering dividing snaps further for defensive packages that are catered toward what an opponent is likely to do.
"It's a little bit different because that guy is going to play about 30 percent of the time, and if we have to use two guys, a pass-cover guy and run-player and kind of mix it on down and distance, I've thought about doing that," Zimmer said. "We just kind of see where that goes. Right now, we're just looking at guys, so Lamur, Robinson — Edmond did some good things today, and there's some things he can work on, and then Gedeon. I just wanted to see him a little more. He's been cross-training, but I wanted to see him a little more at Will today."
Diggs' Deeper Confidence
Zimmer said he thinks Diggs, who is preparing for his third pro season, is "a lot more confident now."
"There's no doubt about that," Zimmer said. "I think that he thinks no one can cover him, but as far as his route running and things like that, all of that is pretty good, getting in and out of cuts, catching the ball. He's always had great hands, speed has always been good. I just think he feels more confident."
Diggs boosted his numbers from 52 receptions for 740 yards and four touchdowns as a rookie in 2015 to 84 catches for 903 yards and three scores in 2016.
View images from the Verizon Vikings Training Camp practice on Wednesday, August 2.
Zimmer was asked about the status of tackle Riley Reiff, who left Minnesota's first veteran practice last Thursday and has been out since, and receiver Laquon Treadwell, who did not practice Wednesday.
Zimmer said he thinks Reiff is "getting closer" and said he doesn't know how long Treadwell is going to be out.
"[Reiff] felt a lot better today, but it might be a couple more days," Zimmer said.