MANKATO, Minn. –An August night practice under the lights got everyone amped up last night, including Teddy Bridgewater.
The Vikings took the field in front of 10,000-plus, and those fans saw several of highlight plays, including a few deep passes from Bridgewater. Following practice, the quarterback said their mindset heading into practice was to be aggressive offensively.
"We just wanted to continue to rep plays that we've been installing and get a feel for those plays, and what a better time to do it than in training camp – gaining confidence calling those plays and getting a feel for the different concepts," Bridgewater said. "It was great tonight, just getting a feel for the different type of plays that we ran."
Bridgewater targeted a number of receivers for large gains, including Terrell Sinkfield, Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs and Charles Johnson, who snagged a 21-yard pass on a fourth-and-8 situation. On Thielen's reception, Bridgewater commanded the ball to the sideline, while Thielen made a diving catch and maintained possession while sliding out of bounds at the 15-yard line.
"Third-and-4, and we had to make a play. We went deep," Thielen said. "Teddy threw it up, and it's one of those things where you've got to go make a play and make him right, and we completed it, which is good.
"I think [the deep ball is] kind of an emphasis," Thielen continued. "We know as receivers we can do it, we know the quarterback can do it and we know that the offensive line is going to protect."
Bridgewater said the biggest change in mentality heading into the 2016 season is increasing trust in his teammates to make the play.
"We had two pass interference calls, [and] we had a couple big plays down the field, so that's what it's all about – giving those guys a chance," he said. "It's either going to be a completion or a pass interference.
"Our guys know that once the ball's in the air, it belongs to the Vikings," said Bridgewater, who's entering his third NFL season. "That's our mindset going into this season, and I think we've been doing a much better job just pushing the ball down the field."
Fans were able to watch the team practice a little bit in the red zone, an area the Vikings are working to improve on this offseason. Bridgewater said that everything happens faster in the red zone, calling for quicker decisions and smart ball placement to avoid giving up the ball.
"We know we have to get better […]. The room for error is very thin down there, so we understand that," Bridgewater said. "We have to take what the defense is giving us, at the same time. We want touchdowns, but we're not going to force throws or turn the ball over down there."
Maintaining an aggressive mindset, Minnesota's offense drew the defense offsides on two separate occasions Saturday. Bridgewater was happy with the effort and said it's been a focus of the offense to put the defense into an "uncomfortable position" and create such situations during games.
"We just want to try to [steal] as many yards as we can – if we get six offsides penalties, that's 30 yards right there, free yards," Bridgewater said. "We try to do different things to mix up their starting points and things like that."
Bridgewater's energy following Saturday's practice was infectious, but his edge and drive to improve were equally strong. After players are off Sunday, Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer will go over the practice film with his team Monday, and Bridgewater said there were some things that could have been done better, and they will continue working on making adjustments.
"Every day, we know there's room for improvement," Bridgewater said. "As a whole, as a team, as an offense, as special teams, each unit is trying to get better each day."