University of Louisville

Ex-Card Teddy Bridgewater battles for starting spot with Vikings

Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, shown playing against Kentucky in September, had a lackluster showing during pro day, and his NFL Draft stock might have fallen as a result.
Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, shown playing against Kentucky in September, had a lackluster showing during pro day, and his NFL Draft stock might have fallen as a result. Herald-Leader

The Minnesota Vikings' quarterback carousel has spun often the past few seasons, and this year will be no different.

As training camp gets under way in Mankato, Minn., there are two candidates for the job: incumbent Matt Cassel and rookie Teddy Bridgewater, the team's first-round pick out of Louisville.

Bridgewater is the latest attempt by one of the NFL's most star-crossed franchises to establish that elusive stability at quarterback. Cassel was re-signed to be the bridge to Bridgewater and started the first full practice Friday with the first team.

"I don't have a starter in mind yet. They're going to determine who the starter is on the practice field, how they go about their business, how they perform in the preseason games," said new coach Mike Zimmer, who spent the past six years as the Cincinnati Bengals' defensive coordinator.

Cassel, who took over for failed starters Christian Ponder and Josh Freeman down the stretch last season, knows he will have to earn the job.

"There is no easy road about it," he said.

Bridgewater has quickly learned the art of noncontroversial, selfless expression in interviews since he was drafted, sounding a lot like the 10th-year veteran that Cassel is. Bridgewater said he's not focused on the competition for the job, but rather grateful for the acceptance Cassel and Ponder have shown him.

"I have to compete with myself first. That will make me a better player. Then I can compete with the guys in the room. That will make the team better," Bridgewater said.

Such modesty aside, the Vikings have raved about his demeanor and progress since the draft.

"We had high expectations for him coming in, and he's either met or exceeded those," quarterbacks coach Scott Turner said.

Cassel spoke of Bridgewater's quiet nature and good-naturedly commended the rookie for fetching him a sports drink Friday. Left tackle Matt Kalil joked that Bridgewater looked like "a little 14-year-old kid" upon meeting him for the first time a few months ago.

"Great guy. Works hard out there. Really smart. I'm excited to see what he does," Kalil said.

Around the league

Seahawks: The Super Bowl champions opened training camp without star running back Marshawn Lynch, who chose to stay away because of his current contract situation. Beast Mode's status: absent and unhappy.

"Everybody is calling him, but it's a business at the end of the day," Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett said. "... So all you can do is support him. You want him to be here, but as a player you understand the business side too."

Lynch can make up to $5.5 million this season in base pay and roster bonuses. It's the third year of a four-year contract and he's scheduled to make $5.5 million in base salary in 2015. He now faces fines of $30,000 for each day of camp he misses. Carroll said he's remained in contact with Lynch throughout the offseason.

Browns: Quarterback Johnny Manziel says he "made some rookie" mistakes during the offseason and vowed to be focused on just football in the future.

Speaking on the eve of Cleveland's first training camp practice, Manziel briefly addressed his behavior during the offseason when photos of him partying around the country were a weekly occurrence. Manziel said he has spoken to Coach Mike Pettine and General Manager Ray Farmer and "we've been on the same page."

Colts: Running back Vick Ballard was carted off the field Friday with a lower left leg injury, and reported it was a torn Achilles. Ballard tore the ACL in his right knee before the second game last season.

Browns: Embattled Pro Bowl wide receiver Josh Gordon reported to camp and passed his conditioning test as he awaits an appeal hearing with the NFL on a possible suspension. Gordon is scheduled to meet with the league on Aug. 1. He's facing a one-year ban for violating the substance abuse policy for at least the third time. Gordon was suspended for the first two games last season, but still led the league with 1,646 yards receiving.

Texans: Star receiver Andre Johnson reported to camp looking to move past an offseason where he skipped workouts and a mandatory minicamp. "I love playing this game of football," Johnson said. "I'm going to play football and ... I don't plan on walking away from this." He wouldn't divulge what exactly was said or done to get him to return to the team.

Cowboys: A judge convicted linebacker Rolando McClain of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct in his Alabama hometown and imposed an 18-day jail term that could interrupt the player's bid to restart his career.

Patriots: Star tight end Rob Gronkowski, recovering from knee surgery on Jan. 9, went through light activities at training camp. Gronkowski is not sure he'll play in the season opener Sept. 7.