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Vikings WR Thielen shines in preseason opener

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen looks on during the third quarter against the Oakland Raiders at TCF Bank Stadium on Friday. The Vikings won 10-6. Brace Hemmelgarn / USA Today Sports

Roster momentum is building for Adam Thielen, the omnipresent wide receiver who spit-shined his special-teams credentials for the Vikings in Friday night’s preseason opener against Oakland.

The former Minnesota State Mankato standout averaged 17 yards on three punt returns, including a 26-yard dash that set up a field goal in the Vikings’ victory.

Thielen also covered a punt brilliantly, racing downfield to trap and drop Denarius Moore for a 4-yard loss at the end of the first half.

From praise for his rapid improvement from coach Mike Zimmer and general manger Rick Spielman to the splashy plays he routinely makes at training camp, Thielen always seems to be front and center.

He seems a lock to nail down the No. 5 receiver position but Thielen’s special-teams contributions have him playing with house money.

This is Thielen’s second training camp with the Vikings. The Detroit Lakes native spent the 2013 season on the practice squad. But he impressed the brass enough during the off-    season to earn a future’s contract, which essentially guaranteed him a roster spot through organized team activities and minicamp.

As a senior in 2012, Thielen helped lead the Division II Mavericks to a 13-1 record and a national semifinal berth. He finished as Minnesota State’s second-ranked receiver and third-ranked punt returner.

Bridgewater has an uneven NFL debut

A chorus of “Teddy! Teddy!” echoed throughout TCF Bank Stadium in an introductory group hug for Vikings rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater Friday night as he lined up for the first time against an NFL defense.

It was a tough act to follow.

Starter Matt Cassel went 5 for 6 and drove Minnesota 62 yards for a touchdown on the team’s opening drive.

Bridgewater insisted he did not hear his name chanted by the heartiest 51,752 fans in attendance. Zimmer did, noting how it usually is a weapon used by the most fickle.

 “Well, usually the backup quarterback is always the favorite guy, right?” he joked. “But they should be excited about Teddy. They’re going to be cheering for him for a long, long time.”

There was not much to sample during Bridgewater’s two-plus quarters of work.

His first pass, a 21-yard strike to Greg Jennings, was negated by a penalty on left guard Charlie Johnson for being illegally downfield.

Bridgewater finished 6 for 13 for 49 yards on three drives, two of which Oakland extended with costly third-down penalties. He looked unsteady at times when challenged by unfamiliar defensive alignments. The No. 32 overall pick was sacked twice.

 “It was a good feeling, just looking forward to this day and taking the first snap,” he said. “It finally came. I’m excited it’s over now and I’m going to look forward to next week.”

Cassel and Bridgewater have been splitting first-team reps during training camp, revealing a wide-open competition among the 10-year veteran and first-year player.

Round 1 in the preseason competition went to Cassel. Mop-up duty fell to Christian Ponder.

Ponder, Minnesota’s starter the past two seasons, finished 3 of 7 for 39 yards. He was sacked three times and had a sure pick-six interception dropped.