EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Laces on the footballs thrown by Teddy Bridgewater in his NFL debut a little more than a year ago weren't the only items spiraling.
He completed 6 of 13 passes for 49 yards, took two sacks and had a rating of 56.2 as a reserve to open the 2014 preseason against the Raiders.
"My head was spinning," recalled Bridgewater Thursday as he and the Vikings prepared to host the Raiders at 7 p.m. Saturday.
"My head was everywhere, my mind was everywhere," Bridgewater said. "First off, trying to get the play call correctly in the huddle, then coming to the line of scrimmage, trying to make the right calls at the line of scrimmage, then post-snap trying to figure out what coverage the defense is running. I think my coaches did a great job last year preparing me for that first game and this year, having a year under my belt playing in this system, I'm even more comfortable."
And it shows. Bridgewater, now in the starting role, is 12-of-14 passing for 130 yards without a sack and with a passer rating of 105.3 in limited action in the Vikings first two games this season. The 85.7 completion percentage has been driven by completions to five different receivers.
"When we do get those reps in the game, it's all about execution and I think we've been doing a good job so far this preseason, not only the first unit but the second unit," Bridgewater said. "Those guys were able to score two or three touchdowns last week. It's just good to be able to just see the team flying around, whether it's the first unit, the second unit, the third unit, the rookies out there, it speaks a lot. The competition has made this team a lot better. In practice, we're competing against our defense and they're making us better on offense and vice versa, the offense is making the defense a better team."
Opponents have completed 36 of 71 passes (50.7 percent), which second-year QB Derek Carr, a draft classmate of Bridgewater, and rookie receiver Amari Cooper, a high school teammate of Bridgewater, will try to raise.
"He runs very good routes," Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes said. "He's pretty physical, his lower body is strong so he'll be hard to tackle."
Loadholt visits: Fresh off surgery to repair the Achilles injury he suffered Saturday on his second snap against Tampa Bay, Phil Loadholt visited Winter Park Thursday and was greeted warmly with smiles, hugs and handshakes from teammates.
The offensive line informally formed a tunnel near the doors to the locker room that Loadholt passed through with his repaired leg up and riding across a non-motorized cart with wheels.
"He was good, he told me he doesn't want to just not be around the guys, not be around the facility, wants to help any way he can," Head Coach Mike Zimmer said. "He obviously was devastated when it happened, but I think he's starting to understand that now he's got to get back. I told him he will be one of many guys that have had Achilles that have come back that I've had before. We expect him to have a good recovery.
Euro to American football: An injury to Shamar Stephen has created an opportunity for Chigbo Anunoby to take more reps with the second team defensive line. Anunoby was born in London, England and moved to America when he was 14. He played soccer originally and transitioned to football as a kicker until a coach said his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame said he needed "to be in the trenches." Anunoby is now an inch taller and listed at 320 pounds.
Anunoby was signed off the Titans practice squad in January, and went from playing mostly nose tackle in Tennessee's 3-4 to being one of two defensive tackles in Minnesota's 4-3.
"I feel like I can make more plays in this defense at my position. I was just being a big body," said Anunoby, who originally signed in 2012 with Indianapolis as an undrafted free agent out of Morehouse College. Anunoby is one of several reserves with an interesting background. He played 2006-07 at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri, where his father works. After a two-year gap of not playing football, he received a scholarship to Morehouse and played 2010-11.
All-America Anniversary Team: The Football Writers Association of America announced its 75th Anniversary All-America Team, honoring 75 top players from past FWAA teams, including several that later had Vikings ties.
Pro Hall of Fame tackle Ron Yary (1968-81), the first offensive lineman ever selected with a No. 1 overall pick, RB Herschel Walker (1989-91) and WR Larry Fitzgerald (a Minneapolis native) were named to the first team.
Receivers Randy Moss (1998-2004, 2010) and Anthony Carter (1985-93) were named to the second and third teams, respectively.
Defensive backs coach Jerry Gray was among the second-team defensive backs, and former assistant coach Mike Singletary was a first-team linebacker. Chris Spielman, brother of Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman, was named with the third-team linebackers.
Click here for the full list.
Practice notes: The Vikings shifted from camp-mode practices to prepare a little more for the Raiders with more scout team work Thursday than earlier in the week.
Two catches that stood out during the session were actually made by defenders for interceptions. First-round pick Trae Waynes closed quickly on the ball thrown by Mike Kafka on a play that involved a blitz, and undrafted free agent Anthony Harris, who won a brief round of tipping the ball and secured it as he went to the ground.