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Kirk Cousins hopes rookie Garrett Bradbury is Vikings’ center for ‘the next decade’

Minnesota Vikings center Garrett Bradbury (56) participates in workout drills during organized team activities at TCO Performance Center. David Berding / USA TODAY Sports

EAGAN, Minn. -- As far as first impressions go, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins was instantly drawn to rookie lineman Garrett Bradbury, if nothing else for his sense of style.

“He tucks his shirt in every day,” Cousins said. “I think that sends a message right there. He is ready to work. I respect that.”

As professionally as Bradbury carries himself, the truth is, as long as he handles his business on the field, he could be the most unkempt person on the planet and nobody would care.

All the Vikings are looking for is some stability on the offensive line, which is why they selected Bradbury in the first round of last month’s NFL draft out of North Carolina State.

And while his position was kept under wraps since he joined the team, it looks as if Bradbury is going to be given every opportunity to be the starting center. He snapped to Cousins during the first week of organized team activities, flanked by former starting center Pat Elflein, who will move to left guard for next season.

“He is a smart kid,” Cousins said of Bradbury. “I look forward to him being here a long time.”

That’s the goal for the Vikings, and for Cousins, who has expressed that to Bradbury while referencing the constant turnover on the offensive line. He noted how he worked with a handful of different centers last season — from Nick Easton to Cornelius Edison to Pat Elflein — and how he would rather not go through that again this fall.

“I told him, ‘I’d like to work together for about the next decade,’ ” Cousins said. “I just tried to set that vision for him and say, ‘You be the guy here for the next decade and let’s not have to worry about having anybody else snap for the quarterback.’ ”

Those conversations had a profound impact on Bradbury during his first week on the job.

“He’s been awesome,” Bradbury said of Cousins. “Just need to continue to build that rapport and continue to build the continuity in the offensive line room.”

As much as Cousins is dedicated to helping Bradbury excel at the next level, he understands part of that is figuring out what makes him tick when he’s away from the team facility.

“You sit around at the breakfast table and get to know him as a person,” Cousins said. “He has his head on straight and there is a maturity there. That is a good place to start.”

“You have to have good people to win,” Cousins added. “If a guy is a great athlete and not a great person, eventually it is going to catch up with him. I think they’ve done a good job of bringing good people into our locker room.”

What’s the next step for Bradbury?

“He just has to learn how to block people like (325-pound Vikings defensive tackle) Linval Joseph,” Cousins said with a laugh. “I joked with him today, I said, ‘You see Darth Vader over there? You are going to have to block him. You ready?’ I think it’s been to our advantage Linval has taken a couple of days off here.”

Regardless of the competition, coach Mike Zimmer was very impressed with Bradbury through the first week of organized team activities.

“There won’t be any issues there,” Zimmer said. “I think Garrett is going to be an excellent addition to this team. He’s a smart guy and has been a good leader for us so far.”

There’s still a lot Bradbury has to learn before the Sept. 8 season opener against the Atlanta Falcons. And that’s OK.

“We have time, and we will take advantage of it,” Cousins said. “Just keep stacking days on top of each other and get him where he needs to be. As much as there may be some growing pains along the way to get to where we want to be, that’s OK as long as we can have that continuity. Hopefully, Garrett will be the guy for a long time.”