Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.
Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.
Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.
Most of us call ‘em meaningless games. Of course, most of us don’t have to stand there and throw a football while 280-pound men charge at us with the goal being to break us in half.
So let’s just say a quarterback’s protection calls are pretty darn meaningful whether the NFL counts the games or not.
“Protection calls are always the most important thing for a quarterback to know,” Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel said Wednesday. “There’s no doubt about that. But I think the offensive line has done a tremendous job this entire camp picking up the calls and knowing where to go. I don’t expect that to change.”
Cassel, the tentative No. 1 quarterback, will continue his competition with rookie first-round draft pick Teddy Bridgewater in Friday night’s preseason opener against the Raiders at TCF Bank Stadium.
Cassel will start and play until coach Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner are comfortable with what they see relative to this being the preseason opener. Bridgewater will see reps with the first-team and could play a couple of quarters. Christian Ponder, the distant No. 3, probably will play the fourth quarter.
Naturally, most of the attention will be focused on Bridgewater, the No. 32 pick.
When asked if he had butterflies, he said, “Not at all.” When asked if he’ll be nervous, he said, “Not at all.” He wasn’t asked to repeat the questions while hooked up to a lie detector.
“This is a dream come true,” he said. “I’ve been playing football since I was 5 years old and just been waiting for this morning. I’m pretty excited. I can’t wait.
“I was actually talking to Xavier Rhodes at dinner two nights ago and he was more nervous for me than I was for myself.”
As a backup for most of his career, Cassel has seen a lot of preseason action over the years. He said he still doesn’t know what to expect as far as how aggressive defenses will be when it comes to showing their blitz packages.
“Some [keep it simple], some don’t,” Cassel said. “A lot of teams will try out a lot of blitzes in these games. You have to be prepared for anything. You go back and watch previous preseason games and also what they did in the previous year and try to get a feel for their personnel and what they do. But the first preseason game, you never know what you’re going to get.”
The protection calls and adjustments at the line of scrimmage are made by the center and the quarterback. Bridgewater, coaches say, has stayed up to speed in that regard in training camp.
“It’s very important,” Bridgewater said. “I haven’t taken a hit yet in the National Football League. It feels like 100 years since I actually have taken a hit, since my college bowl game.
“So I’m just looking forward Friday night and making sure I’m sharp within the protections. There’s going to be a lot asked of the quarterbacks, but in training camp, we’ve been doing good and playing exceptional football. I’m pretty sure Friday night will be a good night.”
|Team Irvin||19||2nd Qtr 0:14|
|Boston||60||3rd Qtr 5:58|
|Washington||69||3rd Qtr 5:44|
|Northwestern||65||2nd Half 1:05|
|Coll of Charleston||53|
|William & Mary||57|
|(17) Florida State||110|
|(9) Oregon State||68||FINAL|
|(13) Arizona State||57|
|(12) North Carolina||67|
|(11) Stanford||54||2nd Half 9:37|