- Associated Press - Friday, July 25, 2014

MANKATO, Minn. (AP) - The first day of Minnesota Vikings training camp started early, with a 1:30 a.m. fire alarm that turned out to be false but sent everyone sleepily streaming out of their dorm rooms.

Players joked about believing new coach Mike Zimmer had plotted some kind of sadistic test of their mental toughness. Perhaps it was an ominous sign of an uneven season ahead.

Or maybe this was merely another reminder of the urgency this team has in needing to settle on a quarterback, after a decade of chaos at the sport’s most important position.

“It’s not a secret. The quarterback position really hasn’t played well, but that’s why you bring guys in,” running back Adrian Peterson said.

Like Teddy Bridgewater, the first-round draft pick from Louisville who became the latest attempt by one of the NFL’s most star-crossed franchises to establish that elusive stability at quarterback.

The carousel has spun often during Peterson’s career, and his age, 29, makes consistent production at the position that much more critical this year.

First, Zimmer must make his first big decision: whether Bridgewater or incumbent Matt Cassel will be behind center for the season opener.

Cassel was re-signed to be the bridge to Bridgewater and started the first full practice Friday with the first team.

But that’s now. Later could be different.

“I don’t have a starter in mind yet. They’re going to determine who the starter is on the practice field, how they go about their business, how they perform in the preseason games,” Zimmer said.

Cassel watched Christian Ponder and Josh Freeman start in front of him several times last year despite outperforming them until finally taking over for good down the stretch of a lost season, so he’s well aware of the fleeting nature of a starting spot.

“I still have to earn this thing. There is no easy road about it,” he said.

Bridgewater has quickly learned the art of noncontroversial, selfless expression in interviews since he was drafted, sounding a lot like the 10th-year veteran that Cassel is. Bridgewater said he’s not focused on the competition for the job, but rather grateful for the acceptance Cassel and Ponder have shown him.

“I have to compete with myself first. That will make me a better player. Then I can compete with the guys in the room. That will make the team better,” Bridgewater said.

Such modesty aside, the Vikings have raved about his demeanor and progress since the draft.

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