McCarthy expects Vikings to start Sam Bradford

Ryan Wood
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GREEN BAY – A week ago, Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer told his team Shaun Hill would be the starting quarterback for their opener.

He didn’t think it was a big deal. What is said in the secrecy of an NFL locker room, stays in the secrecy of an NFL locker room. Instead, Zimmer said, he was “disappointed’ to see the news leak out before kickoff at the Tennessee Titans.

So, the Vikings coach is playing his cards close to the vest this week. Zimmer has not announced whether Hill or Sam Bradford, whom the Vikings traded a first-round pick and more to acquire before the season, will start Sunday night against the Green Bay Packers.

The news isn’t secret from every Vikings player, however.

“Yeah, yeah,” running back Adrian Peterson said Wednesday morning, “I know exactly who’s starting.”

Coach Mike McCarthy said the Packers will prepare for the possibility of either quarterback starting for the Vikings, but he expects Bradford “probably” will get the call. At least that seems to be what he heard.

“We’ve taken the approach that we could see either one of the quarterbacks,” McCarthy said. “My understanding is that it’s probably going to be Sam Bradford, but I have a lot of respect for Shaun Hill. He played very well against us when he was with the Detroit Lions. So we’ll prepare for both quarterbacks.”

Minnesota Vikings quarterbacks Shaun Hill (13) and Sam Bradford (8) warm up before an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn.

Hill started for the Vikings last week in their opening win at the Titans. He completed 18-of-33 passes for 236 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions with a 77.3 rating – numbers that don’t exactly jump off the box score.

In his 11-year career, Hill has played seven seasons inside the NFC North (three with the Vikings). He has made one start against the Packers, a 28-26 loss with the Detroit Lions in 2010. Hill completed 34-of-54 passes for 331 yards with two touchdowns, two interceptions and a 77 rating.

Whichever quarterback the Vikings start Sunday will have some effect on the Packers’ defensive approach. McCarthy said certain schemes will be tilted toward one quarterback or the other. Ultimately, being the Vikings, that effect will be minimal.

Both quarterbacks will be handing off to the same running back.

“The fact of the matter,” McCarthy said, “is it’s going to start with giving the ball to Adrian Peterson. Every time we play the Vikings, that’s the focal point of our defense.”

It would seem logical for the Vikings to start Bradford on Sunday. Teams don’t trade first-round picks to stash a quarterback on the sideline. Perhaps the biggest obstacle for Bradford will be learning a new offense.

Peterson gave a glowing review of how Bradford is picking up the Vikings’ playbook.

“Personally, I think he's doing a great job of picking up the offense and calling plays,” Peterson said. “Understanding and knowing what he's doing and in the huddle. I would say he's picking it up extremely well.” and follow him on Twitter @ByRyanWood

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