EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Vikings coaches and players have reached their bye, a weekend to rest and recharge for a second half of the season that starts with road trips in four of the next five games.
This point in the calendar also means that General Manager Rick Spielman hosted members of the media for an annual question-and-answer session.
Spielman opened the 30-minute talk with a quick assessment of the Vikings, who improved to 6-2 on Sunday with a win over the Browns in London. This showing marks the second time in Head Coach Mike Zimmer's four seasons in which the Vikings have opened a season 6-2 through eight games. The 2015 team went 7-2 before dropping three of four and rallying to win the NFC North.
"It's a great time to have a bye this week, coming back from London. It gives us a chance to get our guys healthy," Spielman said. "The coaching staff really honed in on areas that we need to improve. For the last two days of practice, we've really spent a lot of time in those areas as we move forward.
"Our coaches and players are going to get out of here for the weekend and get refreshed," Spielman added. "I know Coach Zim' was walking out of here with his hunting gear on, trying to go incognito. I said, 'Zim', you look more obvious than if you had a Vikings hat on.' "
Not surprisingly, questions about quarterbacks were high on the list for reporters.
REFRESHER: The Vikings opened 2017 with Teddy Bridgewater on the Physically Unable to Perform List as he continued to recover from suffering a dislocated knee in August 2016. Sam Bradford, who was acquired via trade days after the injury, earned NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors in Week 1 after torching New Orleans. Bradford, however, aggravated a knee injury and has only appeared in one game since (at Chicago in Week 5). He made it through most of the first half before re-aggravating the injury.
Case Keenum, an offseason signee as a free agent, has started the other six games for Minnesota and played a critical role in relieving Bradford at Chicago.
In addition to a monster game against Tampa Bay in Week 3, Keenum has protected the football, worked with a rebuilt offensive line and made plenty of plays in the passing game to compliment a surging rushing attack.
STATUS UPDATE: Bridgewater is in a 21-day window that the Vikings have to evaluate whether they will bring him up to the 53-man roster or keep him on the PUP list.
That window expires next Wednesday, and the Vikings are scheduled to have another practice Monday when the team returns from its bye.
The weekend off will give Keenum an opportunity to rest up from a chest injury that he managed to play through.
Bradford continues his rehab from the knee injury, and the Vikings also have rookie Kyle Sloter on the 53-man roster. Sloter is yet to play in a regular-season game.
"The decision on the quarterback will come down to what Coach Zimmer and the coaching staff feels to give us the best chance to win," Spielman said. "I know Teddy, since he has started practicing over the past couple of weeks, you've seen him continue to progress as we watch him at practice. I know we have to make a determination on his status next week, but once we sit down with the doctors — we're never going to put any player out there that can't perform and play the game of football. I know Teddy has worked extremely hard to get himself back as quickly as he can.
"Case has done a phenomenal job of what he's been asked to do," Spielman added. "Sam came out and played great that first game and unfortunately we lost him, and to have a guy like Case Keenum, what Zim' and [Offensive Coordinator] Pat Shurmur and the offensive staff have done, to not change the system but do some things that are positive and what Case can do well. That's one great thing, they can identify what our players do well and try to magnify that by what they're calling and how they're managing the game. I think that's a lot of the reason we've had the success to date."
Spielman said the coaching staff, personnel department and medical staff have been evaluating Bridgewater's "mobility, his mechanics throwing the ball, just like a normal evaluation would be" and asking, "Is he better with his mobility from the first day we saw him on the field to today?"
"We're evaluating him in practice every day, and then we'll have to make a decision next week, not if he's going to start or not start, but if he's going to come up to the 53," Spielman said. "That will be the next step, and from there, the coaches will determine the rest of the way."
Spielman said the Vikings are hoping that Bradford is healthy enough to play this season.
"I know he's done beyond probably what's expected to try to get back as quickly as he can," Spielman said. "We're hopeful we have all three of these guys healthy."
As for Keenum, Spielman said the Vikings were "fortunate to get him" after first shoring up the offensive line by signing tackles Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers.
"We did a lot of film on [Keenum]. Our first goal was to take care of that offensive line right when free agency period began," Spielman said. "We actually started talking with him and his representatives down at the owners meetings, maybe the third week in March, where things started to get heated up with him.
"We wanted to make sure we had enough quality at that position, just because we've had some tough times there with injuries," Spielman continued. "Case was healthy, he fit all the physical traits and characteristics that Pat thought could excel and do some positive things in his type of system. We were fortunate to get him."