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Lurtsema Predicts Teddy to Play in 2017

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May 16, 2017

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Bob Lurtsema watched Teddy Bridgewater throw footballs last week and he predicts the Vikings quarterback, who missed all of the 2016 season because of a severe left knee injury, will soon be competing with Sam Bradford for the starting job.

“He’ll play in preseason,” Lurtsema told Sports Headliners. “He’s throwing sharp.”

Neither Bridgewater nor the Vikings have announced an official return to the field but Lurtsema, the well-known Vikings alum who remains close to the franchise, spoke confidently about a comeback for the 24-year-old who Minnesota drafted in 2014. When asked how Bridgewater’s knee is recovering, Lurtsema replied, “Very, very well.”

Before Bridgewater hurt the knee in a noncontact situation last summer, there was every confidence the former Louisville star was going to be the team’s starter and quarterback of the future. The knee injury was so severe, however, it cast doubt over Bridgewater’s short and long term future, with suggestions he might not ever play again.

The Vikings were forced to acquire the veteran Bradford late last summer. He not only learned the offense remarkably well on short notice but passed the football with amazing accuracy. His completion rate of 71.6 percent was even more impressive because of the injuries that devastated the offensive line. That percentage set an NFL single season record.

Bob Lurtsema

When asked about the Vikings’ likelihood to hold a competition in training camp this summer between Bridgewater and the 29-year-old Bradford, Lurtsema said, “Hell, yes.”

Who will win the job? Lurtsema said the selection will have everything to do with head coach Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur’s belief about who is better suited to run the style of offense they think best fits the club’s overall personnel. The quarterback who can best complement that offense and execute it gets the job, per Lurtsema.

When Lurtsema saw Bridgewater last week he expressed empathy concerning the knee injury and lengthy rehab. Bridgewater said injuries are part of the game and players can expect to get hurt. “I feel great now and things are going to be good,” Bridgewater told Lurtsema.

Worth Noting

The Vikings will open their regular season against former star running back Adrian Peterson who is now with the Saints. Coaches recently haven’t allowed the 32-year-old Peterson to have contact in preseason games. Lurtsema believes that is a mistake not getting the body ready for running the football and if Peterson follows the pattern as a Saint he will have minimal production against the Vikings in the season opener.

Lurtsema appeared at a Twin Cities Sabercats game last Saturday to sign autographs. The Sabercats are a semi-pro football team that won its 2017 opening game at North St. Paul Polar Field against a team from Iowa. The Sabercats have a playing roster of 53 and don’t receive compensation. Players range in age from 18 to their late 30s.

Bud Grant’s birthday is Saturday. The legendary former Vikings coach turns 90.

Sunday’s column about the 1967 Gophers Big Ten championship football team prompted emails from readers including former team student trainer Steve Nestor. Nestor remembered coach Murray Warmath used four different starting quarterbacks that season—Larry Carlson, Phil Hagen, Ray Stephens and Curtis Wilson. “Go figure! Has to be more than unique,” Nestor wrote regarding Minnesota’s last Big Ten title team that struggled to score points early in the season.

John Williams

The column referenced the late John Williams who was a highly recruited fullback from Toledo coming out of high school and he was pursued by legendary coach Ohio State coach Woody Hayes. The coach hung up the phone on Williams when he heard the schoolboy star was going to Minnesota, according to emailer Steve Hunegs.

Gophers football coach P.J. Fleck told WCCO Radio “Sports Huddle” listeners on Sunday his preference is to name his starting quarterback the first week of practice in August. Senior redshirt Conor Rhoda and junior Demry Croft looked like the favorites for the job coming out of spring practices.

As the new head coach in January, Fleck inherited a program that excels academically and made vast improvements in recent years. Eligibility was a major issue when Jerry Kill became head coach in late 2010, and part of what the public doesn’t know about the academic turnaround is football department staff went to classes checking on the attendance of players.

The May 15-22 issue of Sports Illustrated has high praise for Jake Guentzel, the Penguins rookie forward who is the son of Gophers associate men’s hockey coach Mike Guentzel. Jake’s teammates include superstar center Sidney Crosby who has helped make the Penguins a favorite to win the 2017 Stanly Cup. “He’s just so smart,” Penguins assistant GM Bill Guerin said of Guentzel. “Jake thinks the game at a high enough level that he can keep up with Sid.”

Former Gopher Phil Kessel scored the lone goal last night in the Penguins’ 1-0 win over the Senators to tie that Stanley Cup series at 1-1.

The same issue of S.I. included NBA leaders this past season in hustle statistics like charges drawn, contested shots, deflections and loose balls recovered. Among the leaders in scrappiness was Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio whose 3.8 deflections per game tied John Wall of the Wizards for third best in the league. Robert Covington from the 76ers led all players in that category at 4.2.

The Star Tribune’s Sunday night online story about the Gophers softball team not being selected by the NCAA to host a regional playoff series was the most read article on the website. The Big Ten champions will be sent to Tuscaloosa, Alabama where play begins Friday and the field includes the SEC’s Alabama. The 54-3 Gophers were faulted for having zero wins against top 10 nationally ranked teams and only two versus top 25 programs. All 13 SEC softball teams made the NCAA Tournament and eight of the 16 hosts for regionals are from that conference.

The St. Paul Saints open their season Thursday night against Gary and are giving away 6,000 tams in recognition of the late Mary Tyler Moore whose 1970s TV show was factiously based in Minneapolis. A Minneapolis statue of Moore, who died earlier this year, depicts her famous tam toss from the TV show.

Saints owner Mike Veeck had a hip replacement 49 days ago and is moving well. He and the Saints are celebrating 25 seasons in St. Paul this year.

Minnesotan Michele Tafoya, the sideline reporter for NBC’s Sunday Night Football, impressed with her presentation to the CORES group last Thursday. The next program is September 14 when Matt Birk, the former Vikings center who now works for the NFL, speaks to CORES. Darrell Thompson, the Gophers all-time leading career rusher and now the team’s radio analyst for games, will speak on November 9. CORES is an acronym for coaches, officials, reporters, educators and sports fans.

St. Thomas used four spring conference championships to win the 2016-2017 MIAC men’s and women’s all-sports title for the 10th consecutive year. It’s the 31st all-time title for the St. Thomas men and 26th for the women.

Target Center general manager Steve Mattson is leaving his position because of a family relocation to Seattle.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers.

Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section.

A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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