MANKATO, Minn. — The Vikings have returned to Minnesota State University, Mankato with four quarterbacks on the roster.
Even though they play the same position, camp will present a uniquely different experience for each.
Already the established starter for the second season in a row, Teddy Bridgewater, 23, has an opportunity to continue to grow in that role.
"We're going to take advantage of the time here in Mankato and make sure we are doing things right, whether it's alignment, assignment, detail and things like that," Bridgewater said. "We're going to make sure we are perfecting our craft down here and get ready for the season."
Shaun Hill is 36, the oldest player on the Vikings offense, and entering his second straight year of backing up Bridgewater and sharing his depth of knowledge with teammates who were 10, 10 and 11 when Hill reported for his first NFL training camp, which coincidentally was in Mankato with the Vikings in 2002.
Hill had a little chuckle when asked to assess Bridgewater, himself, Stave and the status of Vikings quarterbacks after Friday's first walk-through.
"Well, we've had one walk-through, so they were both here on time," said Hill, who in his 15th training camp is probably capable of sleepwalking through the morning sessions.
With two young children, Hill said he's trying to take advantage of peace and quiet at night.
"I try to get sleep. This is the best place for that," Hill said.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said he values what Hill has seen and done. Zimmer said it benefits younger players and himself.
"There was a two-minute drill in the last year in the spring or something like that, and we were talking and we didn't have any timeouts left. He said, 'Do you want an incompletion, or should I take a sack in this situation?' I don't remember exactly what it was. Things like that make me think, too. He has seen so many things. He catches on quick, he understands the offense and he's a good guy."
Hill threw quite a bit to Stefon Diggs during last season's camp, putting passes on the money as Diggs began showing signs of what became a 52-catch, 720-yard, four-touchdown debut.
Like Hill, Taylor Heinicke arrived at Vikings camp as an undrafted free agent a year ago, and rookie Joel Stave joined the Vikings in the same fashion this spring.
Heinicke will be sidelined while he goes through rehab work on an ankle injury he suffered in what he called a "freak accident" between Minnesota's minicamp last month and time to report for training camp. The Vikings haven't put a timeline on Heinicke's anticipated recovery time.
Zimmer told the media he said, "Darn it," or "something like that," when he learned about Heinicke's injury because of the potential Heinicke showed last year. He earned a roster spot last preseason as the Vikings kept three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster all season.
Stave will try to maximize effectiveness of reps that would have been slotted for Heinicke while he recovers. He's learning from Bridgewater and Hill, but he believes the best learning opportunity might occur in games.
"It's unfortunate what happened to him, but I've got to make sure I'm doing everything I can to take advantage of these extra reps," Stave said. "On paper, I feel pretty good with [the offense]. I can draw it up and explain it. It's a whole different ball game when you get out on the field. I feel good with it. It's just a matter of doing it.
"Going through your progressions and trusting what you see," Stave continued. "I've got a pretty good feel for reading defenses and things like that. Obviously, you can continue to improve, but the biggest area where I can get better is allowing my feet to get me through the reads as quick as I can."
Less than two weeks from the Vikings starting the preseason against the Bengals on Aug. 12, Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner said he's looking forward to game action providing a better assessment than non-contact practices.
"We pretty much limit the reps the third guy gets, but he's going to get those reps. Obviously, Shaun has played a lot of football, and the preseason, to me, the third guy, as we've seen with Taylor [last year] gets opportunities to play in games, and that to me, is where you get a chance to make a big positive impression, how you play in preseason games, and he's certainly going to get some opportunities."