MINNEAPOLIS — Sure, this is only the preseason.
Still, Teddy Bridgewater’s first game with the Minnesota Vikings is kind of a big deal.
Quarterback plus first-round draft pick equals perpetual spotlight.
“It’s a dream come true, to finally be able to play my first game in the National Football League,” Bridgewater said. “I’ve been playing football since I was 5 years old, and I’ve just been waiting for this moment.”
Leave that to the other guys. Bridgewater recalled a dinner conversation earlier this week with cornerback Xavier Rhodes during which Rhodes revealed his nervousness for Bridgewater when the Vikings host the Oakland Raiders on Friday night.
“I just can’t wait to get out there,” said Bridgewater, who will relieve Matt Cassel at some point in the first half and take some snaps with the first team.
The Vikings have done nothing but praise his poise and progress since he arrived.
“When the lights come on, it’s a different deal. It’ll be good for him and how he reacts to seeing different defenses that he hasn’t seen very much of, how he has to readjust the blitz, how he gets the ball out and make the right calls, how he plays under pressure,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “I anticipate he’s going to play very well.
Exhibition games, despite the anticipation they naturally create for the regular season, are notoriously lacking in meaning and drama for everyone not trying to make the team or pick the players for it.
Anytime there’s a quarterback or two in the spotlight, though, the intrigue can only increase.
That’s what is on tap for this opener, with Bridgewater taking his first turns with the Vikings and Matt Schaub making his debut with the Raiders.
“It does start once you put on that jersey for real,” said Schaub, who will be the 18th different quarterback to start a game for the Raiders over the past 12 years.
Second-round draft pick Derek Carr will also get his career going, when coach Dennis Allen decides Schaub is done for the night.
After a rough ending last season to an otherwise-productive time with Houston, Schaub might see more action on Friday than a typical veteran starter, Allen hinted this week.
“All these guys, they want to play. We’ll kind of play that by ear. We’ll see how things go,” Allen said, adding: “Being a new group together, I think it’s important that they get out and play the game together.”
Tight end David Ausberry will sit out because of a knee injury suffered this week that required surgery and Allen declined to divulge more details about, so Mychal Rivera will get meaningful turns with the first team.
Wide receiver Denarius Moore, who has averaged almost 700 yards and six touchdowns over the past three years, has slipped down the depth chart with the addition of James Jones and Greg Little this season and thus finds these exhibition games important for his status on the roster.
“There’s a lot of burst there, a guy that can take a slant and go 50,” Schaub said.
There’s another important debut on deck, too: TCF Bank Stadium.
Well, the University of Minnesota’s on-campus home was used for an NFL game once before, when the Vikings were forced to play there after the Metrodome’s roof collapsed during a snowstorm. But now it’s permanent or, rather, temporary for the next two years while the Vikings wait for their new stadium to be built.
The college venue, which opened in 2009, has been spiffed up for professional use with more seats, new turf and more beer taps.
All good for the fans, but the guys in pads are more focused on what’s happening on the field.
“We just want to go out and play,” Zimmer said. “It’s going to give us a good judge of where we’re at. We’ve been going against each other enough. It’s just good to line up against somebody else.”