Winning Vikings sticking with Keenum at QB vs. surging Rams
By Dave Campbell
AP Pro Football Writer
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — Case Keenum will start again at quarterback this week for Minnesota, a natural decision for coach Mike Zimmer with the Vikings on a five-game winning streak and Keenum coming off a career-high four-touchdown performance.
With Teddy Bridgewater hovering as the fully healthy backup and Zimmer’s reluctance to declare Keenum the indefinite starter, though, the quarterback situation has been a weekly question if not a mystery.
Zimmer answered it Wednesday, staving off the speculation for at least a few more days by announcing that Keenum would start Sunday against his former team the Los Angeles Rams.
“I just figured I might as well count on it,” said the affable Keenum, who has clearly grown weary of the constant attention given to his tenuous status but kept up a positive public attitude because, well, that’s what backup quarterbacks have to do.
Keenum helped the Vikings (7-2) produce a season-high 38 points last week at Washington, completing 21 of 29 passes for 304 yards while sending each of the four scoring tosses to a different receiver.
Keenum did, however, throw a season-high two interceptions, and Zimmer expressed disappointment about the decision-making on those throws that helped the Redskins keep the game close in the fourth quarter.
“I just have to know the situation. I’ve got to be smart. I can’t put our team in tough spots like that,” Keenum said.
Keenum has started five and finished six of the team’s seven victories this season, relieving Sam Bradford because of knee trouble that arose after the opener.
But Bridgewater is widely expected to take over sooner than later as the starter despite not playing in a non-preseason game in more than 22 months because of the massive knee injury that threatened his career.
As a first-round draft pick in 2014 who contributed in 2015 to the team’s 11-5 record and NFC North title, Bridgewater is, fair or not, in the obvious position to eventually take back the job.
The timetable could be accelerated by Zimmer’s unabashed fondness for Bridgewater, whom he has effusively praised for his character and attitude before and after the arduous rehab.
Zimmer was hired about 3½ months before Bridgewater was drafted, too, forever tying their careers together.
So while on some teams a change such as this would be strange or tense, the Vikings have taken the quarterback quandary in stride. They’re used to it, after all.
“I think it just shows the leadership we have in this locker room. I think it shows the quality of players and character that we have in this locker room,” wide receiver Adam Thielen said. “We have a lot of unselfish guys who just want to win.”
Even Keenum and Bridgewater can’t stop lavishing compliments on each other.
“Case, he’s awesome. He’s a great human being, a God-fearing man. I knew from day one, my spirit could sense that he was a good man,” Bridgewater said.
Keenum has a Bridgewater jersey in his possession at home.
“He’s a great dude and a great teammate,” Keenum said. “Teddy definitely raises the cool factor of the quarterback group tremendously.”
As for playing against the surging Rams (7-2), who have won four straight games behind Keenum’s replacement last season, Jared Goff, and a punishing defense, he tried his best to downplay the significance of a matchup against a team that got rid of him.
“I treat every week the same,” Keenum said. “There’s maybe a little more familiarity with these guys, but it’s business as usual for me.”