GREEN BAY – The intrigue surrounding the Vikings’ starting quarterback for this week is just getting started.
On Wednesday, in a conference call with Green Bay media, Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said he hadn’t made a decision yet, and he might not even tell his team right away when he does.
A half-hour later, Mike McCarthy suggested he’s expecting Sam Bradford rather than last week’s starter, Shaun Hill.
Then Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, on his conference call, declared he knows “exactly who’s starting,” before proceeding to joke that he’ll be taking the snaps from center himself.
“I’m going to take the week and figure it out,” said Zimmer, who decided on Hill last week on Thursday morning but then wasn’t happy that word leaked before Sunday’s game in Tennessee. As a result, he’s considering taking the secrecy up a notch, even within his own locker room.
“Usually I like to inform the team of everything that’s going on here and what I’m thinking, but I was a little disappointed that some of the things got out. We’ll just see how it goes. I may talk to them, I don’t know.”
All that said, the Vikings have put the shock of Teddy Bridgewater’s season-ending knee injury behind them and are 1-0 following a victory at Tennessee last Sunday.
Early front-runner status in the NFC North is on the line, as the Vikings are trying to defend their 2016 division crown following their triumph in Week 17 at Lambeau Field last January.
Zimmer said that win “proved that we could play with the big boys,” while Peterson called it “a big statement.” It was just Minnesota’s second win in the last 11 meetings with Green Bay, and Zimmer has called out his team to make it a more even rivalry.
The Vikings’ defense was the difference in Tennessee. It generated three turnovers in the second half, returning both a fumble and an interception for touchdowns.
Linebacker Eric Kendricks’ 77-yard INT-TD late in the third quarter gave the Vikings their first lead, and they never looked back.
Zimmer wasn’t pleased about his defense in the first half, which ended with the Vikings trailing, 10-0, and he sounds like a coach who’d rather not rely on a fickle element like turnovers to stop people.
“We have not been a huge defensive turnover team,” he said. “Kendricks’ interception was really a good example of being able to pressure the quarterback and him making a mistake.
“Obviously I would love to say we’re going to get turnovers every week, and it just doesn’t happen in this league, and I wouldn’t say we’re a gambling type of football team.”
Peterson is off to a slow start in 2016, gaining just 31 yards on 19 carries against the Titans. He was the focal point for Tennessee’s defense, perhaps moreso than usual due to Bridgewater’s injury, but he feels he could have done more.
“When I watched the film, it was tough sledding out there, but still with that, there were opportunities I missed,” Peterson said. “There were two or three for sure.
“They put nine, 10 guys in the box, and they said we’re going to make this a four-minute defense type style.”
Peterson rushed for 1,485 yards last season in leading the Vikings to the playoffs. Minnesota’s previous postseason appearance, in 2012, was thanks to 2,097-yard output, a gargantuan season coming off a torn ACL from late in 2011.
Peterson returned in near-record time from the same injury Packers receiver Jordy Nelson is coming back from now, and Peterson emphasized the comeback is a bigger mental challenge than anything else.
His words for Nelson?
“He has to mentally understand that his ACL, that ligament in particular, is stronger than the one he didn’t tear,” Peterson said. “So pass that message on to him, that the one he tore is stronger than the one he didn’t tear, so go out there and just let it loose.
“You have to play fast, have that confidence and understand that piece of it, and know that I can go out and not be hesitant, and I’m still going to be good.”