Linebacker Anthony Barr won’t play because of a sprained ankle suffered in Saturday’s win over the Kansas City Chiefs, but quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has a “good chance” to start as head coach Mike Zimmer considers holding out some of his starters.
“I told the team that some guys are not going to play, but I didn’t tell them who,” Zimmer said, hoping to talk to the players before informing the media. “There’s a good chance (Bridgewater will start), how’s that? There’s a good chance, let’s say that.”
If he does, it would be the coaching staff’s first chance to see how the rookie that has been so impressive in the preseason handles a start, even though veteran Matt Cassel was named the starter for the regular-season opener Sept. 7 in St. Louis.
Cassel has completed 26 of 39 passes (66.7 percent) for 367 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in three preseason games. Bridgewater has completed 26 of 40 passes (65 percent) for 266 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions in that same timeframe.
Thursday night will also be the first and most extensive opportunity for Christian Ponder, who hasn’t play since the preseason opener, when he completed 3 of 7 passes for 39 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions.
“I’d like to see him do what he does out here in practice. He made like three great throws today, just had the poise,” Zimmer said Tuesday. “When he’s getting rushed, have the poise and make the right throws. He’s got all the talent in the world to do those things, so that’s really what we want him to do. It’s just really what he’s doing in practice.”
Barr, who has been impressive in his extensive preseason action, isn’t alone in sitting out Thursday because of injuries. The linebackers have been hit especially hard in the last two weeks.
Michael Mauti isn’t expected to play because of a foot injury and Gerald Hodges is questionable with an ankle injury. Rookie Brandon Watts is also out with a leg injury.
Additionally, safety Jamarca Sanford and rookie cornerback Jabari Price (arm/shoulder) are out for Thursday, as well as offensive tackle Phil Loadholt (ankle) and defensive tackle Linval Joseph (calf).
The Vikings are in wait-and-see mode with receiver Rodney Smith, who landed awkwardly on his upper back after fielding an onside kick and being undercut Saturday night.
“He’s just really sore,” Zimmer said. “I’m not a doctor, but it was kind of a whiplash thing. He hit pretty hard … his back and neck where he landed.”
“We moved Jasper into the nickel some so we could see him in some of those situations the other night, just because they weren’t getting enough plays and because Arizona was so much substitution personnel,” Zimmer said. “We may just stay a lot more, like this week we may even stay a lot more base defense just so we can continue to evaluate them.”
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.