View images from the Wednesday, December 17 practice at Winter Park.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Several of Florida's native sons will return as Vikings to the Sunshine State Sunday when Minnesota visits Miami.
The list includes rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and second-year cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who are both from Miami, as well as Linval Joseph (Gainesville), Jabari Price (Pompano Beach), Josh Robinson (Sunrise) and Blair Walsh (Boca Raton).
Bridgewater and Rhodes said they are excited to play in their hometown but will be focused on what the Vikings (6-8) need to do against the Dolphins (7-7).
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said he advised Bridgewater to take care of any ticket requests from family and friends early in the week, and added that he isn't worried about outside aspects becoming distractions or altering his mindset for the game.
"Teddy's really not that kind of guy that, 'I'm going to go showoff,' " Zimmer said.
Bridgewater is positioned to set a franchise record for a rookie with his 11th start at quarterback. He tied Fran Tarkenton (1961) and Christian Ponder (2011) with 10 on Sunday and is 5-5. Bridgewater said he didn't know how many ticket requests his mother, Rose Murphy, has handled on his behalf this week.
"I'm pretty loved back home in Miami, and a lot of people tell me that I'm a role model in my community, so it'll be amazing to see how many turn out there and get to see me play in person for the first time for some people," Bridgewater said. "But I can't give you a number; I don't know how many people will be there."
Rhodes said he received "too many requests" for tickets to keep up with. His emotions went from excitement about the game when the schedule was announced to sort of setting this game aside to focus on the task at hand each week.
"At the beginning of the year I looked at the schedule, but as the season begun, I literally took it game by game," Rhodes said. "Sometimes I forget who we have next because the season is long so you're concentrating more on the game that you're playing that week, but now, I'm excited to go against this team and be back home."
He'll be fresh off another solid performance in which he shadowed a receiver for the first time, lining up across from Detroit's Calvin Johnson and helping limit "Megatron" to 53 yards on four catches.
"That was a challenge. As you know, I'm always on the right side, so that was a challenge for me being on the left side and also playing against Calvin," Rhodes said. "I think I did pretty well at it but it's up to the coaches to see if they have me shadowing the rest of the season."
Rhodes leads the Vikings with 17 pass breakups on the year, which is tied for fourth in the NFL, according to league stats.
QB COMPARISON: Bridgewater's stats this season are similar to those posted by fellow first-round pick Ryan Tannehill for the Dolphins in 2012.
Bridgewater is 223-of-351 passing (63.5 completion percentage) for 2,451 yards with 11 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and a passer rating of 82.7. Tannehill started all 16 games in each of his first two seasons and all 14 so far in '14. As a rookie, he completed 282 of 484 passes (58.3 percent) for 3,294 yards with 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions for a rating of 76.1.
Tannehill has improved completion, touchdown and interception percentages and passer ratings each season. He said he has tried to learn each game and said he's gained comfort to help him play faster, a concept that Bridgewater has also experienced this season.
"Once you hit that point, that's when you see your play really get better," Tannehill said. "If you're out there thinking and not reacting, you're going to play slower, you're not going to be as accurate and you're not going to play as well."
Dolphins Head Coach Joe Philbin said Tannehill's accuracy and decision making have improved with increased experience. Philbin also said he's been impressed by what he's seen out of Bridgewater so far.
"I think he's doing a really nice job," Philbin said. "I really think he has a good presence and awareness back there. He's completing almost 64 percent of his passes. For a rookie, I think that's outstanding. I like his poise back there and his ability to kind of keep his focus where it needs to be. I think he's done a heck of a job."
SAFETY, GUARD ADDED:The Vikings on Wednesday announced they had signed safety Ahmad Dixon from their practice squad to their 53-man roster and signed guard Jordan McCray to their practice squad. Dixon, a rookie out of Baylor and seventh-round pick of the Cowboys, spent time earlier this season on the Vikings practice squad and Bears 53-man roster before he was waived by Chicago. McCray, a rookie out of Central Florida, spent time this season on Green Bay's practice squad after signing as a free agent.
Zimmer said he's kind of kept up with Dixon this year during his multiple stops.
"I think he's a talented guy, he's been bouncing around on some different practice squads and teams for a little bit, but he's a guy to look at for possibility of the future," Zimmer said. "(He) played pretty good on special teams, we knew him coming out in the draft and then when he was with Dallas in the preseason, the couple of games I watched, he looked pretty good."
PARTICIPATION: For the Vikings: Kyle Rudolph (ankle/knee), Charlie Johnson (ankle), Robert Blanton (ankle/knee), Linval Joseph (illness) and Anthony Barr (knee) did not participate in Wednesday's practice. Sharrif Floyd (knee), Greg Jennings (hamstring), Matt Asiata (foot) and Brian Robison (ankle) were limited. Rhodes (wrist) and Andrew Sendejo (thumb) fully participated.
For the Dolphins: G Nate Garner (illness), T Dallas Thomas (foot) and RB Daniel Thomas (knee) did not participate Wednesday. TE Charles Clay (hamstring), CB Cortland Finnegan (ankle), LB Jonathan Freeny (hamstring), LB Jelani Jenkins (foot), S Don Jones (shoulder), LB Koa Misi (hamstring/knee) and CB Jamar Taylor (shoulder) were limited.