EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — As long as Sam Bradford stays healthy this season, the Minnesota Vikings won’t be worried about their quarterback situation.
There’s a lot of uncertainty behind Bradford on the depth chart, though.
Teddy Bridgewater remains immersed in his rehabilitation program, of course, trying to push his knee back into playing shape. He’s on the physically unable to perform list, where he’ll likely start the regular season.
So if the Vikings decide to keep a third-stringer on the active roster behind Bradford and backup Case Keenum, they’re currently looking at Taylor Heinicke or Mitch Leidner.
Heinicke is the third-year project who went undrafted out of Old Dominion and has never taken a snap in an NFL regular-season game. He’s most famous for severing two tendons in his foot from an ill-fated kick through a glass pane of a door to his friend’s apartment that they were locked out of.
Leidner is the local rookie who signed with the team on Sunday. He’s the only player in Minnesota program history to rush (33) and pass (36) for 30-plus touchdowns in his career. Leidner was driving around meals for the restaurant delivery service Bite Squad in between workouts while waiting on a call from an NFL team.
Heinicke has had a spotty preseason. He sat out of practice on Sunday and Monday because of an injury. Leidner produced just three passing scores against 11 interceptions over eight Big Ten games in his senior year. The Vikings cut Wes Lunt, an undrafted prospect from Illinois, at the beginning of training camp.
The question, then, is whether they’ll reserve a 53-man roster spot for an unproven prospect at the position as long as Bridgewater is sidelined.
“I think it’s extremely important that you’re always developing quarterbacks,” offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said.
“You just never know how it’s all going to play out. You just want to keep developing the quarterback position throughout the season and especially during training camp, so that if for some reason you need a guy, you have a guy ready to go.”
The practice squad would be a natural place for such a developmental player. Last season, with Bridgewater on injured reserve and Heinicke on the non-football injury list, the Vikings kept only Bradford and Shaun Hill on the active roster to start while stashing Wisconsin product Joel Stave on the practice squad.
Coach Mike Zimmer, asked about the subject after practice on Monday, said the team would “like to” keep three quarterbacks on the initial 53-man roster.
“You look around the league, and when quarterbacks go down, then you start scrambling and finding guys on the street and things like that,” Zimmer said.
Keenum, for his part, has played well in two preseason games. He drew praise from Shurmur for the crispness and mobility he’s shown in the pocket. With two more exhibition games remaining, then, the spotlight will be on Heinicke and Leidner or whoever else might wind up in camp to audition for an active roster spot.
“It’s been a lot of months of just grinding and hoping this moment would come,” Leidner said.
Practice on Monday was held inside the fieldhouse, with stormy weather in the afternoon. There was also the matter of the solar eclipse that peaked at the start of the workout, with the potential distraction that came with that.
“I can watch it on CNN or something, I guess,” Zimmer said, shrugging off the missed opportunity to witness the scientific rarity. Then the coach who’s had eight eye surgeries in the past nine months quipped: “Hey, I’ve only got one good retina. You don’t get two.”