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Vikings Receivers Search for Express Route to Merge with QBs

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Vikings receivers have added a route to the passing tree this week: express.

Minnesota's receiving corps, which is **mostly unchanged** from a year ago, has been working at a rapid pace with quarterbacks Shaun Hill and Sam Bradford to ready themselves for Sunday's opener of the 2016 regular season against the Tennessee Titans.

The summer days when multiple Vikings receiving targets were hosted by quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in Florida for throwing sessions that became known as "Teddy Two Gloves Passing Academy" have transitioned to a fast fall with both quarterbacks taking some reps with the first-team this week.

Hill, at least, had the benefit of backing up Bridgewater a year ago and was around for all of the Vikings 2016 offseason. Bradford, however, has had three practices since he was acquired in a trade with the Eagles. 

Hill was 25-of-34 passing for 236 yards with three touchdown passes, two interceptions and a rating of 97.2 in the 2015 preseason. He went 17-of-25 passing for 192 yards and a passer rating of 90.8 in three preseason contests this season, including somewhat of a surprise start in place of Bridgewater at Seattle.

The quarterbacks are friends, dating back to their time as teammates with the Rams in 2014, and **competitors**.

"Both of them come out and compete at a high level," Johnson said. "We've just got to keep working hard and continue to focus on our jobs, get open and catch the ball. It doesn't matter who's throwing it."

On the cusp of his 15th NFL season, Hill has made 34 starts. Entering his seventh season, Bradford has started 63 games and has been processing the playbook since he arrived in Minnesota on Saturday.

"Sam's been in this league a long time. I've been saying all the time that the NFL is a copycat league, so if you've seen somebody run a 4-route, it's a 4-route," Johnson said. "You know what a curl route looks like. He's been around football long enough that he knows what a curl route looks like. He's just got to get used to how we call the plays and our depths and all of that stuff, but he's been coming along well."

Transition is nothing new for Charles Johnson, an original seventh-round pick of the Packers in 2013, who was signed by Cleveland from Green Bay's practice squad later that season. Johnson was signed by the Vikings from the Browns practice squad in 2014 and caught 31 passes for 475 yards and two touchdowns in his first game action. Johnson was limited by a rib injury in 2015, when he posted nine catches for 127 yards.

Hill and Bradford are generally pocket passers, which Tennessee Head Coach Mike Mularkey said allows the Titans to prepare for either in generally the same way.

"We've got video of them with the designed out-of-the pocket [plays], but that's not what they're there for," Mularkey said. "They're there to first hand it to [Adrian Peterson] and then second, off action like that, try to get balls down the field. It's not an extreme difference with what we're doing this week

Vikings receivers, however, must be in lockstep with some details to maximize efficiency.

"You've just got to see how the ball comes off their hands, how they call cadences, there's a bunch of different things," Johnson said. "I mean, we've been working with a guy like Teddy now for three years, so it's a little bit different, but we've got to come out here, take the next step and continue to work."

Roller-coaster week: Perhaps no team in the NFL has dealt with such a wide range of emotions over the past week than the Vikings.

Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was lost for the season last Tuesday with a knee injury, a blow that affected teammates and fans who have a strong affinity for the 23-year-old quarterback.

The Vikings then swung a trade Saturday morning with the Eagles for quarterback Sam Bradford.

The fact that the Vikings are scheduled to open the 2016 regular season at Tennessee on Sunday adds to the emotions.

Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said he's tried to take all of the happenings in stride.

"It's been like a roller-coaster, and I hate roller-coasters," the 5-foot-10 Munnerlyn said with a smile. "I barely can fit on them … I just barely make [the height requirement].

"It's been a roller-coaster but at the same time, our front office made a big move," he added. "It let us know in the locker room that this is our year."

View images from the Wednesday, Sept. 7 practice at Winter Park.

Injury reports: The first injury report of the 2016 season has been released by the Vikings and Titans. Minnesota's list is crowded, compared to Tennessee's.

For the Vikings: Nick Easton (ankle) and MyCole Pruitt (knee) did not participate in Wednesday's practice. Johnson (quadriceps), Rhett Ellison (knee), Xavier Rhodes (hamstring) and Jerick McKinnon (foot) were limited participants. Matt Kalil (hip) and Anthony Harris (shoulder) fully participated.

For the Titans: Kendall Wright (hamstring) did not participate.

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