EAGAN, Minn. — The “State of Hockey” experienced an early line change on Sept. 8.
Nope, it wasn’t the Wild or even the Golden Gophers hockey teams. It was the Minnesota Vikings.
After the Vikings took a 10-point lead with 13:39 remaining in the first half, starting defensive linemen Everson Griffen, Sheldon Richardson, Linval Joseph and Danielle Hunter tagged out.
Stephen Weatherly, David Parry, Jaleel Johnson and Tashawn Bower tagged in as the 49ers took possession at their own 25-yard line.
San Francisco used a couple of well-designed plays that resulted in gains of 18 and 13 on passes from Jimmy Garoppolo to George Kittle, and a 15-yard pass interference penalty gave the 49ers the ball at the Vikings 23.
Griffen, Richardson, Joseph and Hunter tagged back in.
San Francisco netted a loss of 1 on its next three plays and settled for a field goal.
The Vikings rotated linemen at points during the rest of the game, reducing snap counts for starters.
According to league stats, Hunter played 58 of the Vikings 66 defensive snaps. Griffen played 51, Joseph played 49 and Richardson played 46.
Johnson played 22, Weatherly and Parry were in for 14 apiece and Bower played nine.
Zimmer said immediately after the game that he didn’t want to do an entire line change going forward. He reiterated his belief in each of the players. All four, and rookie DT Jalyn Holmes, who was inactive Sunday, had shining moments during the preseason.
“We need to get the rotation down a little bit better I think, but I have confidence in all of those guys,” Zimmer said. “Jaleel, Bower, Weatherly, Parry, I have confidence in them. We’ve talked about doing a little bit better job of how we’re going to handle that.”
Everson, did it help you? Could you tell a difference?
“Absolutely. Absolutely,” Griffen said. “Can I stay out there still and do the plays that I came out? A hundred percent. But why?
“Give Stephen or Bower, [give them] their opportunity to go play because they’ve proved that they can play,” Griffen added. “We’re in it for the long haul. Our goal right now is to go out there, prepare for Green Bay and take it game by game and go out there and try to get a win at Lambeau.”
Parry and Bower said this week that they think the rotation had some short-term positives and could have even better long-term benefits.
“Guys played well up front,” Parry said. “I think it will help us throughout the course of the season, not only as guys begin to wear down throughout the season, but also proactively keeping guys from wearing down.”
The goal will be to spread out some of the pounding that occurs up front caused by contact on virtually every play for linemen.
“I think we did good,” Bower said. “We had some first game jitters that everyone has, but I think there are things that we can clean up and improve, but overall we did a really good job and kept the guys fresh and came out with the win.”
Rotating at Green Bay in Week 2 might be a little tougher if Aaron Rodgers, who has missed practice the past two days, suits up for the Packers.
Rodgers, whose status will be announced Friday, has a proclivity for catching opponents in the midst of a substation and drawing a penalty for too many men on the field.
“I think it’ll help us down the road, but it will also help us in these particular games,” Zimmer said. “Now this week will be hard, because they won’t let us substitute, but we’ll just have to get out there and go.”