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Bridgewater player to watch

If nothing else, Teddy Bridgewater has planted the seed of doubt when it comes to the general assumption that he’ll be brought along slowly and out of sight while veteran Matt Cassel mans the starting quarterback job to start the regular season.

Yes, the Minnesota Vikings are the beneficiary of a draft-day slide that delivered Bridgewater to them in a slot (No. 32 overall) that comes with fewer expectations and more patience. But the youngster from Louisville showed enough on and off the field during minicamps and OTAs to be taken seriously as a contender for the starting job from opening day.

Those who don’t believe that should research what happened in Seattle just two years ago. Remember when Matt Flynn was going to be the temporary bridge to a Seahawks future that included third-round pick Russell Wilson starting at quarterback? Remember how quickly Wilson accelerated that timetable, shoving Wilson off his so-called bridge and seizing the starting job from Week 1 of his rookie season?

Bridgewater might not be the next Wilson. But he’s shown the work ethic, the instincts, the mental capacity, the quick release, the poise and the arm strength to give a career journeyman such as Cassel a run for the starting job. As for those who point to Cassel’s highlights a year ago (versus Pittsburgh and Philadelphia), well, they also need to brush up on his lowlights (versus Carolina and Cincinnati) and overall inconsistency and shaky ball security.

Many have assumed a likely scenario that includes Cassel starting, Bridgewater waiting a year and Christian Ponder serving as the No. 3. But Vikings coach Mike Zimmer has been careful not to name a starter, a No. 2 or a No. 3.

The only definite that still appeared intact as the team’s minicamp came to a close was Ponder’s role as the No. 3. As for Bridgewater, the coaches seem genuinely impressed by everything the kid has done to this point.

“I knew he’d make great decisions, quick decisions,” offensive coordinator Norv Turner said. “But he has been outstanding throwing the deep ball, which some people thought would be an issue.

“I think in the six-to-eight weeks we’ve had him on the field, I think he’s been put in a position where’s he’s had to make most of the throws he would have to make. I think he can make all the throws he needs to make.”

Zimmer said he has a date in mind for when he wants to name his starting quarterback. After watching Bridgewater handle OTAs and minicamp, it appears that decision might not be the foregone conclusion that so many expected.

NOTES, QUOTES

—At 58, Mike Zimmer is making his first run as an NFL head coach. Through 5 1/2 months, he sounds like a man who thinks things are going pretty well.

“It’s been a good five months,” he said July 19 after sending his players off from their final minicamp practice to five weeks of vacation before the start of training camp. “Honestly, I’ll probably miss these guys for five weeks.”

Zimmer said he likes what he’s seen since getting to know his players a little better since being hired in January.

“I learned that we have got good guys on this team,” he said. “I think that (general manager) Rick Spielman and the scouts have done a good job of getting quality people in here. I learned that they want to win. I learned that they work real hard. They get along with each other pretty well for a bunch of guys from different backgrounds and different places. I learned a lot about their personal lives, but to me it’s about how hard they work, how hard they study. It’s impressive to me.”

—It’s been an unusual offseason for Vikings linebacker Michael Mauti. For starters, he’s not rehabbing from ACL surgery for the first time since 2011.

“Right now, I feel great physically,” said Mauti, a seventh-round pick in 2013.

He’s only 24 years old, but Mauti already has torn three ACLs. And neither knee was spared the serious injury during his career at Penn State.

“I had a full offseason just to work out and get my legs right and not have to rehab anything, which is great,” Mauti said. “I feel like my body is back to where it was. I haven’t felt this good in a couple years now, which is a great thing because I don’t have to worry about where I am physically and I can just go out and play.”

Mauti is a grinder with a tremendous work ethic. A year ago, the Vikings used him as a special teams player in 14 games. This year, he has been running behind Jasper Brinkley at middle linebacker and Chad Greenway, the starting weak-side linebacker.

“Last year, being a rookie, there were just so many things (to learn),” Mauti said. “It wasn’t just the knee necessarily. I felt good enough to play and I made some plays last year on special teams. Mentally, you got that first year under your belt and you can start to get more comfortable. You’re not the new guy anymore. Now it’s just learning the defense and putting all my focus into that.”

Wide receiver Patterson.

Yeah, he was an All-Pro as a rookie. But that was as a kickoff returner. Look for him to break out as a receiver this season. One of the more head-scratching aspects of last season’s collapse was the coaching staff’s inability or lapse in judgment when it came to getting Patterson more involved in the offense. By the time that happened, the season was lost and the coaching staff’s fate sealed.

Patterson has a year’s worth of experience and is now working under Norv Turner as offensive coordinator. Turner’s work with Josh Gordon in Cleveland last season has Patterson 100 percent on board with whatever Turner says. Also, unlike last season, when the Vikings flip-flopped through three starting quarterbacks, Patterson should benefit from what’s expected to be more stability at quarterback.

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