Notebook: Bridgewater's confidence not shaken despite practice interceptions

Teddy Bridgewater's first preseason game last week demonstrated some growing pains and he followed it up a few nights later with three interceptions in a Minnesota Vikings evening practice. Still, his confidence hasn't changed.

Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater finished 6 of 13 for 49 passing yards and was sacked twice in Minnesota's preseason opener against Oakland.

Brace Hemmelgarn / USA TODAY Sports

MANKATO, Minn. -- Teddy Bridgewater entered the NFL Draft with many believing he was the most pro-ready quarterback of his draft-eligible peers. Yet, Bridgewater's crash course in the NFL hasn't been without its difficulties.

Bridgewater's first preseason game last week demonstrated some of his growing pains. He followed it up a few nights later with three interceptions in an evening practice under the lights at Minnesota State University.

Still, the confidence coming from the seemingly mature, level-headed Bridgewater hasn't changed.

"It's not affected his confidence at all," Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said Wednesday.

Bridgewater is competing to start at quarterback for Minnesota after being drafted with the final pick in the first round. He still has work cut out for himself if he wants to beat Matt Cassel and start for the Vikings.

His preseason debut was uneven. He led Minnesota to a field goal on his first drive, working with the first-team offense. Later, a sack and fumble, recovered by left tackle Matt Kalil on the 8-yard line, pushed the Vikings back and led to the team settling for a field goal.

Bridgewater finished 6 of 13 for 49 passing yards and was sacked twice. Adjusting to the speed of the NFL has been Bridgewater's toughest challenge.

"Open in the National Football League isn't open how it was in college," Bridgewater said after the game. "You know guys aren't going to be wide open in the National Football League because guys are playing pretty tight coverage. Everything is happening faster, so that has been the biggest transition so far."

The faster pace is particularly noticeable in the red zone, where two of Bridgewater's practice interceptions have come in evening practices.

"Obviously we don't want to throw interceptions in the red zone and that's one of our core goals," Zimmer said. "But it happens. Like I would tell the DBs, sometimes you've got to get beat in practice to find out how tight you can play a player (in a game). If you never get beat in practice, you're probably playing too far off of a guy. If we're going to get beat, let's get beat out here in practice. Let's learn from what we do out here. I think that's for every position.

"This is where we learn and when we go out to play, we have a better feeling of our talent and the guy we're going against. But (Bridgewater's) confidence is not shaken. He's fine."

DeCicco to have hip surgery: Second-year linebacker Dom DeCicco has been out of practice this week and Zimmer announced he is scheduled to have a procedure on his hip on Thursday.

DeCicco was signed following the team's rookie minicamp in May, but he's mostly been relegated to third-team duties on defense.

Zimmer wasn't sure about a timetable for recovery.

Safety Robert Blanton missed practice again as he deals with a hamstring injury. Zimmer said Blanton is "getting close" to a return. Tight end Chase Ford and defensive tackle Linval Joseph didn't participate in Wednesday's walk-through,

Vikings add Henderson to staff: E.J. Henderson, a former linebacker with the team, was named the Vikings' youth football manager on Wednesday.

Henderson, who was a second-round draft pick in 2003 and spent nine seasons with Minnesota as a player, will be part of the community relations team and help with youth football initiatives and programs.

While working with youth football, Henderson said he will focus on player safety and health, as well as spreading the core philosophies beyond the Twin Cities.  He's dealt with youth programs since he was a player and has continued the work after retiring.

"This is kind of an extension of that and I'm excited about it," Henderson said. "One of the biggest initiatives we'll focus on is player safety and health. Make sure the coaches, the parents and the players know that the Vikings, the Vikings ownership, is serious about that initiative. Another one is we want to take some of our programming outside of the Twin Cities and hit the greater Minnesota area so we can spread the Vikings message and spread the love of our sport, and the love and the positive things that can come out of playing football."

Henderson said he's seen a big change in player safety and health from when he grew up playing the sport.

"The awareness in the past five years has increased 20-fold, so I'm excited that this is something that we want to really focus on," Henderson said. "I think it's crucial for the future of our game, not only for the players but the parents, the moms, to feel safe about sending their sons out there to play."

The position is new to the Vikings' staff and Henderson stood out among 150 applicants.

"We're very excited to have him in this role," said Lester Bagley, the team's executive vice president of public affairs and stadium development. "He has a connection and the ability to reach kids in the city, in the suburbs and throughout the state of Minnesota. He brings instant credibility and visibility to this role and this position."

Counting down the days: Minnesota breaks camp at Minnesota State University following Thursday's afternoon practice. But Zimmer said the team isn't thinking about the end of camp and cautioned looking ahead.

"I don't think our guys are but I think the schedule says we break camp in a couple days or something like that and I know they've probably got to start packing," Zimmer said. "But that will not be our mentality here. So, we're going to go back and we're going to be in training-camp mode for at least a couple days after the game. We'll have our night meetings like we normally do and then we'll see how it goes from there."

Players like defensive end Brian Robison are looking forward to being able to return home, but they also understand Zimmer's message of continuing to work.

"It's almost like seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, I guess, when you can get out of camp," Robison said. "It doesn't really end, but the fact that you get to go home and sleep in your own bed means a lot. We're just going to come out here the next two days, we're going to give it everything we've got. We've still got a lot of work to get to where we want to be and if we can keep doing that and bring it back to Eden Prairie, I think we've got an opportunity to do something special here."

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