EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –For the first time since taking over as offensive coordinator midway through last season, Pat Shurmur is having the chance to work with Stefon Diggs at practice.
Shurmur, who was the Vikings tight ends coach when Bridgewater suffered a season-ending knee injury on Aug. 30, 2016, said that he had been impressed at that time with the quarterback's skill set.
"The thing about Teddy is he has a very live arm. He moves well. He had very good command of our offense at the time," said Shurmur, who emphasized that Bridgewater has "kept up everything" along by attending meetings throughout his recovery process.
Shurmur said he observed early on in 2016 that Bridgewater was a good decision maker and had the ability to extend plays.
"He is a guy because of his lower body, can extend a play and make a play after things tend to break down a little bit," Shurmur said. "Probably all of the things that everybody knows about him. I've obviously got a short exposure with Teddy, but also very impressed with his command of things."
Added Shurmur: "I felt like, watching him, that Teddy was a winner."
All of that being said, however, Shurmur reminded Twin Cities media members on Thursday that it's important to take things one day at a time with Bridgewater, who returned to practiced Wednesday for the first time in more than 400 days.
The offensive coordinator said Bridgewater got "a couple of reps in all the periods" and will get a little more added as he's able.
"I think with Teddy, it's baby steps," Shurmur said. "A little bit at a time. We try to amp it up a little bit each day as we go."
He said that Bridgewater "looks good" after not being on the field in a long time. He also highlighted the difference between drill work and actually practicing offense versus defense.
"Anytime you are just doing drill work 1-on-1, it's a very controlled setting. When you go out there and you're playing 11-on-11, it's uncontrolled. There's blockers, you have to move. It's very important, and you just need to do it. It's like time on task. We'll just try to get him as many [reps] as we can and keep bringing him along, much like we've been doing since the injury."
Here are other topics covered by Shurmur, Defensive Coordinator George Edwards and Special Teams Coordinator Pat Shurmur during their podium sessions:
Shurmur on 'village' of Vikings WRs
Laquon Treadwell made the most of additional snaps he received against the Packers in Stefon Diggs' absence.
If Diggs, who is dealing with a groin injury, does not play this week against Baltimore, Shurmur said he's confident in Treadwell and the rest of Minnesota's receiving corps to execute offensively.
"He'll be involved like all of the other guys," Shurmur said of Treadwell. "We have a receiver corps. I know you've heard me say it before, but it takes a village. I think it's important for our offense that we spread the ball around. At the end of the day if six, seven, eight, maybe nine guys touch the ball, that's a good thing.
"What's important for Laquon is important for all the other receivers. Do your job, run your routes the right way, and when you pop open and we're looking at you, to make the catches," Shurmur added.
Shurmur said the Vikings receivers room is full of "good, unselfish" players who are ready to make a play when their number is called.
"They have to be focused. On every snap when they're on the field, expect to make a play," Shurmur said. "Then when it comes your way, you'll do a good thing."
Edwards on Harrison Smith
Harrison Smith makes an impact for Minnesota whenever he steps on the field, including a big performance against the Packers last week when he recorded 1.5 sacks and an interception.
Edwards said the biggest key to Smith's success is how well he understands what the Vikings defense is doing schematically. In addition, his versatility makes him a real threat to opposing offenses.
"He's a real pro, so he really trusts his eyes and his vision and decision-making, and I think he does a good job of disguising and doing some of those things off the weak side," Edwards said.
Edwards on impact of Mike Wallace for Baltimore
The Vikings will be reunited with wide receiver Mike Wallace, who spent the 2015 season in Minnesota.
Wallace is in his second season with the Ravens and so far has 15 catches for 239 yards and a touchdowns. Although his stats aren't too flashy, Wallace has been known to catch some deep passes from Joe Flacco, and Edwards said the defense will need to be aware of where he is on the field.
"Mike's always been a speed guy, and Joe can really throw the ball," Edwards said. "Those two have connected on some big plays, which is something we definitely have to pay attention to this week.
"You know about his route running and his ability to get deep," said Edwards, who also spent time with Wallace in Miami in 2013. "So we're going to have to do a good job technique and fundamental-wise out there at corner when he's out there on the run."
Priefer on readying for Ravens
In looking ahead to Sunday's game, Priefer said Baltimore's special teams is "very, very good."
He pointed to John Harbaugh having been a former special teams coordinator for the Eagles (1998-2007) and Ravens Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg being a longtime and "outstanding coach and teacher." Priefer added that Justin Tucker and Sam Koch are among the best kickers and punters, respectfully, in the NFL.
"Both their returners showed up last week, and they're both very talented young men. They have their core special teams players that play hard every play," Priefer said. "It's going to be a great challenge for us, but I'm really excited; our guys are excited.
"We have a good game plan, and we just have to go out and play our game," Priefer added. "Play hard and play fast and finish plays – play faster and longer than them, and get after them. I'm looking forward to the challenge."
Priefer on Vikings ST goals
Priefer is focusing on a number of areas of Minnesota's special teams this week.
The Ravens lost in overtime to the Bears last week, but during the contest Baltimore scored on both a kickoff return and a punt return. Priefer said it will be crucial for the Vikings coverage units to execute on every return to make sure big yards aren't given up.
"You know, I'd like to get our punt-return game going; I think we left some yards on the field last week against Green Bay," Priefer said. "Kickoff return, we're still not anywhere near where we've been in the past, so we need to continue working on that. These guys aren't going to make it any easier, either. Their punter does a great job. He can spray the ball all over the field. Their kicker can kick any type of kick that he wants – he can kick it high and short, he can kick it out of the end zone, whatever he wants to do."