Vikings coach Mike Zimmer was talking about Garrett Bradbury after practice Tuesday when he looked up and saw his rookie center was still on the field.
“He’s still staying out there working I see right now,” Zimmer said.
Bradbury was snapping to rookie quarterback Jake Browning after the other players had left the field following an organized activities session at the TCO Performance Center. Bradbury, taken with the No. 18 pick in April’s draft and already anointed the expected opening-game starter, is doing everything extra he can.
“We just get some snaps before and after every practice, so it’s just working on little things, making sure snaps are all good,” Bradbury said. “Just trying to get a little bit extra work.”
Bradbury is also spending extra time studying his playbook. His goal is to learn the Vikings’ offensive system as quickly as he can.
Other than quarterback Kirk Cousins, Bradbury, as center, needs to provide extra leadership for the offense. He admits he’s not ready yet to be as vocal as he expects to be in time.
“I think I need to learn the offensive system,” Bradbury said. “It’s hard to speak up if you don’t know the calls and don’t know the system. The more I can understand the schemes and make the right calls, the more guys are going to trust me. That just comes with time.”
For now, Zimmer said Bradbury is doing just find. When OTAs began two weeks ago, the head coach didn’t waste time inserting Bradbury at center and moving last year’s starter, Pat Elflein, to left guard.
“Garrett has done a nice job,” Zimmer said. “He’s a very athletic guy that really, really can bend. He’s got good power. He’s very competitive. … We’re giving him a lot of different looks defensively, so I think that’s good for him. There’s times when we can get him confused a little, but he’s very, very bright and doing a good job.”
Bradbury won the Rimington Award last season at North Carolina State as college football’s top center. Still, the Vikings wouldn’t commit on draft night to which position he would play in the NFL.
“I trust my ability,” Bradbury said. “My expectation was to come in and try to be one of the five best offensive linemen here.”
It didn’t take long for the Vikings to sort out their projected starting linemen. In addition to Bradbury and Elflein, Riley Reiff is in line to start at left tackle, Josh Kline at right guard and Brian O’Neill at right tackle.
After two OTA sessions, Cousins was raving about Bradbury. He mentioned how the center shows his professionalism starting with the way he “tucks his shirt in every day” and talked about wanting to play with him “for the next decade.”
“That’s good to hear,” Bradbury said of Cousins’ comments. “Things are going well. Just trying to get more comfortable every day with the guys in the offensive line room.”
Bradbury also is trying to get more comfortable in practices against one of the NFL’s top defenses. While two-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Linval Joseph is still not participating in team drills as he recovers from offseason surgery, there are plenty of other guys Bradbury has had to handle.
“Just the speed of the game, that’s the biggest (adjustment),” Bradbury said. “Everybody’s a little bit bigger, a little bit faster, so while you’re trying to learn the system, you also have to catch up with the speed of the game.”