Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer talks with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) before attempting a punt against the Seattle Seahawks in the fourth quarter of their AFC Wild Card game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on January 10, 2016. The Seahawks defeated the Vikings 10-9. Photo by Marilyn Indahl/UPI | License Photo
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- No matter how he reached his decision, coach Mike Zimmer succeeded with his surprise move to start Shaun Hill while resting Teddy Bridgewater in the second preseason game at Seattle on Thursday night.
Questions have swirled both internally and externally about the 36-year-old Hill's ability to serve as a reliable backup to Bridgewater this season. Even fans who aren't on the Bridgewater Bandwagon believe the Vikings are doomed if anything happens to Teddy. And those concerns were only inflamed when the Vikings pursued Nick Foles and reportedly made him an offer before he joined the Chiefs.
Not that one game changes everything, but Hill's performance with the starting unit -- sans Adrian Peterson, of course -- should serve as a nice dose of comfort to those worried about Hill's age and lack of arm strength. His arm still looked below average, but it was strong enough and well complemented by decisiveness and an offensive line that pass protected much better than it did in the preseason opener at Cincinnati.
In an 18-11 victory, Hill played most of the first half, completing 10 of 17 passes for 129 yards, no turnovers and an 82.7 passer rating. He left with the Vikings leading 11-0. Hill also wasn't sacked, while Bridgewater was sacked on the second of his 15 snaps in the preseason opener.
"We had to take a good look at Shaun," Zimmer said. "We had to make sure we go into the season with a backup we feel good about. I thought he managed everything we did, the huddle. I thought he got the right checks in. And he had an opportunity to get the ball down the field. ... It was good."
No one outside of the coaching staff and players knew Zimmer was going to start Hill and rest Bridgewater on Thursday. Bridgewater hadn't missed any practice time leading up to the game, causing natural speculation that perhaps it was a disciplinary matter.
A Vikings spokesman said during the game that it was a "coach's decision" and that Zimmer would address it after the game. Interviewed on the sideline during the game, Bridegwater said there was, "Nothing to be concerned about at all health-wise."
Reporters waited for an explanation from Zimmer after the game. But Zimmer never gave one during a defiant exchange with reporters asking the most basic of questions.
Asked why Bridgewater didn't play, Zimmer said: "Because I sat him."
Asked why he sat him, Zimmer said, "Because I wanted to."
Asked if it was precautionary or disciplinary, Zimmer said: "Teddy Bridgewater is the nicest kid in the world. There is no disciplinary action ever with Teddy. It had nothing to do with discipline and it had to do with my decision."
When another follow-up question began, Zimmer nipped it in the bud, saying: "It was my decision. How many times are we going to go through this? It was my decision. Good enough?"
A day later, ESPN reported that Bridgewater didn't play because of a sore shoulder. A day after that, on Saturday, Bridgewater participated in practice but didn't throw a single pass as reporters looked on. And yet Zimmer still declined to talk about Bridgewater's injury.
"I'm not going to talk about injuries," Zimmer said after Saturday's practice. But he did, at least, add that he has "no concern" about his starting quarterback missing regular-season action.
Meanwhile, Hill sat out Saturday's practice. Zimmer called it a "vet day off." If indeed Zimmer was being truthful, it's the first one of the summer for Hill.
That left undrafted rookie Joel Stave to make the bulk of the practice throws on Saturday. The only other quarterback throwing the ball in practice was fourth-year pro Brad Sorensen, who was signed on Saturday morning. A former seventh-round draft pick of the Chargers, Sorensen hasn't played in a regular-season NFL game.
But assuming Bridgewater's injury is nothing serious, the Vikings probably got more good out of sitting their undisputed starter and starting their much disputed backup. The 15-year veteran Hill has 34 career starts and has played in Norv Turner's offense in 2009 in San Francisco and since arriving via free agency before last season.
And judging by Thursday's performance, he's also the best choice of backups the Vikings have heading into the regular season.
NOTES: Left guard Alex Boone didn't practice on Saturday, the first day of practice following Thursday night's 18-11 win at Seattle. Coach Mike Zimmer said the absence was for personal reasons. ... Right guard Brandon Fusco, who missed the first two preseason games because of an undisclosed injury, returned to practice on Saturday. ... Cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who injured his hamstring on the first series of the Seattle preseason game, sat out Saturday's practice. He was replaced by Trae Waynes. ... Middle linebacker Eric Kendricks, who missed the first two preseason games because of a hamstring injury, returned to practice on Saturday but participated in individual drills only. ... Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, who also missed the first two preseason games because of a knee injury, returned on Saturday but participated in individual drills only. ... Wide receiver Jarius Wright, who missed the first two preseason games because of a lower leg injury, returned to practice and worked with the second unit. ... Quarterback Brad Sorensen, a fourth-year pro who has not appeared in a regular-season game, was signed Saturday to add depth with starter Teddy Bridgewater battling a sore shoulder. Sorensen, 28, was a seventh-round pick of the Chargers. He also has spent time with the Titans.