May 12 2014, 3:38am CDT | by Poch de la Rosa
"The temptation will be to throw them out on the field right away.
"With a rookie head coach and a general manager who is desparate to reverse the fortunes of the franchise after a last-place season, it might prove difficult for the Vikings to remain patient with their two first-round picks, especially if they get off to another poor start in 2014 and the walls of Winter Park reverberate from the calls of change.
"'The objective is to get the players on your board,' general manager Rick Spielman said. 'Everybody has a development stage. Some hit it right off the bat. Some take time. But we feel very strongly that they are part of the foundation of what we are building here.'
"Coach Mike Zimmer and Spielman maintain that nothing will be handed to UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr, the ninth overall pick in the NFL draft, and that Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, the 32nd pick, will have to wait his turn behind a pair of veteran passers. But it's easy to say that now, here in the middle of May when optimism springs eternal."
"After getting outbid by Cleveland for the 22nd pick, the Vikings lost out on a chance to grab (Johnny) Manziel. They then set their sights on Bridgewater, swinging a deal with the Seattle Seahawks to get back into the first round after taking UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr ninth overall.
"Bridgewater said he maintained a positive attitude over the last few months while he listened to his game get taken apart by draft analysts and scouts, especially after a poor showing at his pro day. After one practice, Bridgewater saw three years of impressive play at Louisville to start to swirl down the drain.
"'I would say the comparison to Willie Beamen, that was pretty harsh,' Bridgewater said of one anonymous coach's link between Bridgewater and the fictional quarterback in Oliver Stone's 'Any Given Sunday' movie. 'But everything happens for a reason. Like I said, you can't control what's being said.'
"Texas (Longhorns) coach Charlie Strong, who recruited and coached Bridgewater at Louisville, said it was difficult to watch a player he thinks so highly of get so unfairly criticized.
"'It was just frustrating to watch it happen,' Strong said. 'You can't take one workout and tell me that one workout is going to judge who Teddy Bridgewater is and what type of player he is. You take his work and his line of work shows that over the three years.'
"'I just know this, that football team at the University of Louisville knew they had a chance to win the game when Teddy Bridgewater had the ball in his hands.'"
"I truly believe that given any player, if they're willing to work and willing to be better, that these two coaches (Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner) -- two, literally, head coaches that have on both sides of the ball -- they can make anybody better. I just didn't think -- which was probably what their thought was -- that Manziel fit what we were trying to get done, personality-wise.
"When you're making a coaching change, and you're raising the bar of accountability and you look at the past history -- it's tough, because you never want to hold anybody to that.
"You always want to continue to give somebody the benefit of the doubt. But when you're investing the amount of money these owners and these clubs are investing, that carries a lot of weight.
"What I know about him (Bridgewater) is, he's a hard worker, he's a smart kid and he wants to get better. Just that alone, it makes you want to work with someone.
"If I were a quarterback, I would want Matt (Cassel) to be my teacher. I would want to be behind a guy like Matt, because he approaches the game like a true professional. He's not afraid of helping those who are pursuing his position. He's just not. His make up is, 'Look, if we can all be better, our team is going to get better."
Poch de la Rosa
Poch de la Rosa follows all major U.S. sports: NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and the NCAA. His favorite teams are the Colts, Braves, Pacers, Sharks and Irish, respectively.
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