EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –With Teddy Bridgewater supporting from the sideline, Minnesota is forging ahead with its goals for the 2016 season, and Sam Bradford has been welcomed to the Vikings ship with open arms.
"Obviously it was disappointing last week when Teddy went down, and we rallied around the guys in the locker room. There's a ton of talent in there, and we knew we had something special," tight end Kyle Rudolph said following Monday's practice. "Then earlier this weekend, bringing Sam in brought a little bit of energy to the locker room.
"When the organization's willing to go out and give up a first-round pick to bring a guy in, it really shows that they have a lot of faith in all the guys in this locker room," Rudolph added. "That we have something special here, and it's time to win right now."
"We're excited to have him," cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said of Bradford, who's now finished two practices in Minnesota.
Bradford joined 15-year veteran QB Shaun Hill on the roster. Hill, who is 16-18 in 34 career starts, has been preparing to start Minnesota's opener at Tennessee on Sunday since Bridgewater's injury. Hill was **particularly sharp** in his only prior game at the Titans (2012 in a relief effort of Lions QB Matthew Stafford).
Bradford was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Rams. In 63 career games, all starts, he's thrown for 14,790 yards, 78 touchdowns, 52 interceptions and has a passer rating of 81.0. After playing four seasons in St. Louis, Bradford spent the 2015 season in Philadelphia. There, he set Eagles franchise records in completions (346) and completion percentage (65.0 percent) and finished fourth in team history in passing yardage (3,725).
Rudolph said Bradford is a high-caliber quarterback who combines with the talent already on the Vikings roster, from Adrian Peterson leading the run game to a defense that ranked fifth in scoring last season.
"When you add all those parts together, we have a chance to do something pretty special," Rudolph said.
Coming off an 11-5 season in which they also won the division title and hosted a Wild Card playoff game, the Vikings had big plans for the 2016 season. The end goal hasn't changed, and the team feels that adding Bradford to the equation strengthened its efforts in getting there.
Both Munnerlyn and Rudolph credited Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman and his staff with making the move in such a short timeframe.
"Our front office, they're committed to winning. They want to win now," Munnerlyn said. "Losing Teddy, it hurts. But they went out and they made a big-boy trade, and we're excited about that.
"[Sam's] a guy that's been proven, he's been in the league for a long time, and he's a great guy," he continued. "Sam is a great guy on and off the field, so he fits in well with our team, and we're excited to have him."
Rudolph said it felt good to transition into a sense of normalcy this week and prepare to kick off Minnesota's regular season at Tennessee Sunday. He said the focus is to get as many reps as possible with Hill and Bradford.
Prior to the trade, Spielman told members of the media that the challenging nature of the quarterback position doesn't lend itself to an immediate plug-and-play solution.
"It's extremely hard because he's got to learn a whole new system," Spielman said. "All of that chemistry and stuff that you put in in the whole offseason, through the OTAs and through the minicamp, through the preseason. It's different than another sport. You just can't plug a guy in, especially at that position and say, 'OK, this is easy, just go out and pick Joe A. and bring him in and everything is going to be like he's been here for 10 years and been working with these guys for 10 years.' "
Although Bradford joined the team just eight days before the season, Rudolph is confident that the 28-year-old quarterback will be up to speed sooner rather than later.
"You know, it's a steep learning curve – [Vikings Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner's] offense is pretty complicated," Rudolph said. "But if anyone's intelligent enough to grasp it quickly, it's Sam."