Chris Tomasson, who covers the Minnesota Vikings and the NFL for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, visited UCHealth Training Center to visit with former Vikings quarterback Case Keenum as the Broncos began OTAs. We caught up with Tomasson about the Broncos' new signal caller to learn when he foresaw Keenum's breakout season, how Vikings fans viewed Keenum and what the Mile High City should expect from No. 4 in 2018.
Aric DiLalla, DenverBroncos.com: "For those of you who covered the team, how surprising was Case's success last year?"
Chris Tomasson, St. Paul Pioneer Press: **"It was a bit surprising, obviously, because he had been on a practice squad as recently as 2014. But he did look really good in the preseason. There was some possible competition for the backup job, but he won it easily in the preseason. So he looked really good in the preseason, so I think a lot of people thought that when he had to step in for [Sam] Bradford in the second game that this was a guy who wasn't going to embarrass himself or anything."
AD: "Was that when you could tell he could put it together and carry the team in Bradford's absence?"
CT:"Well, his first game against Pittsburgh was kind of rough. And that was a tough situation for him, because … it was a game-time decision. … I mean, he didn't know he was going to start until right until the game started. Bradford went out in Pittsburgh and warmed up before the game just to test his knee — which he had hurt the previous Monday against New Orleans —and then they deemed that he couldn't go. And then Case had to go right there. So A) … He didn't know until right before the game he was going to play. B) You're playing on the road against a pretty darn good team: Pittsburgh. So that was a bit [of a rough] game, but he came right back in the third game and had an excellent game against Tampa Bay. I saw Vikings coach Mike Zimmer was quoted earlier this year as saying that that's when he really opened some eyes for him. … People were wondering, 'OK, what's going to happen with Case as the quarterback?' But that third game of the season against Tampa Bay, he was very impressive."
AD: "We've only seem him through these offseason workouts — OTAs started today. How did you see him handle losses and times that didn't go so well?"
CT: **"You know, he was on a total even keel. I think if you talk to veteran quarterbacks, that's what you have to be. He never got too high with any of the big wins, and he never got too [low] with any of the losses. There weren't too many losses — they only lost three games in the regular season. Obviously he was down after the Philly [playoff] game, because the season ended. … He just had a remarkable even keel. Like I said, he never got too high, never got too low."
AD: "What was the fan perception there of Case?"
CT: **"He won them over in a hurry. I wasn't there, but I did a story the day after the Thanksgiving game against Detroit — when he just kept on winning games, kept on winning games and it's like, 'Hey, this guy's pretty good' — he went to the Minnesota Timberwolves game the Friday after Thanksgiving. They'd beaten Detroit the previous day, and he got this thundering, standing ovation. I talked to Marney Gellner, who's the Timberwolves' sideline reporter, and I asked her to compare that celebration to some that other Vikings have gotten in previous years. She said for the last several years, she'd never heard any Vikings player getting introduced get more applause. And that includes Adrian Peterson. Kyle Rudolph has been to games. Adam Thielen — who has become a big deal in Minnesota — has been to games. She said it was the biggest applause she's ever heard for a player introduced at a T'Wolves game."
AD: "This is his first real opportunity to go into a season as the starting quarterback. What are your expectations for him this year in Denver?"
CT: **"I think he'll be solid. Some people wonder, is he going to be the guy that he was in [Minnesota] last year, or is he going to be the guy he was before in his career? Obviously the type of team he's playing for certainly helped him. [He was] playing with a Vikings team that was pretty darn good and [had] a great defense — No. 1 in the NFL in defense in scoring and total defense. That's going to help him. But I think what really helped Case last year was his scrambling ability. The offensive line was improved, but he bailed them out plenty with some of his scrambles. It's not an exaggeration to say some of his scrambles were Fran Tarkenton-esque when he was able to get loose and avoid a sack. Often, he just completed just some crazy passes that you wondered if he could even see the receiver when defenders were swarming over him and he found a receiver."