Case Keenum 'excited nervous' for first career playoff start

Case Keenum admits he will have a few butterflies when he makes the first playoff start of his career Sunday afternoon. Keenum will be the Vikings quarterback when they play host to the Saints in an NFC divisional game at US Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis.


“It’s not a scared nervous, but an excited nervous,” Keenum said this week. “I’m excited because I’m prepared and know what I’m going to do and know how I’m going to play. If you’re not feeling something at this point, you might need to do some other stuff.”

If anybody is going to soak up the experience it will be Keenum, who won 11 of his 14 starts this season after Sam Bradford went down with a left knee injury. Keenum will be a free agent at the end of this playoff run, and despite his breakout year the Vikings could decide to return to Bradford, with Teddy Bridgewater (who appeared in one game this season after not playing since 2015) as a backup. All those decisions will be made in due time. For now, Keenum is relishing the chance to start a playoff game and perhaps help the NFC North champion Vikings to become the first team to play in a Super Bowl in its own stadium.

“I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of emotion going through my mind,” he said. “I’m excited. I’m pumped. It’s been a fun couple of weeks preparing. The whole atmosphere being in the playoffs has been a blast. It’s something I’m going to remember and cherish forever.”

Keenum saved the Vikings this year, coming off the bench and out of obscurity to put together a breakout season. The six-year veteran, who went undrafted and started his career on the Texans’ practice squad, completed 325-of-481 passes for 3,547 yards and 22 touchdowns against seven interceptions. He has been intercepted just twice in his past seven games.


He might be nervous, but he doesn’t feel pressure. He has worked hard enough just to get here. After three seasons with the Texans and two with the Rams, Keenum took full advantage of his opportunity with the Vikings, who started 1-2 and have lost just once since.

“For us, it’s remember what got us here,” Keenum said. “It’s a big game, but we’ve played a lot of big games. It’s the same field and same stadium and same amount of time. Obviously, we’re putting a lot into this. But we put a lot in during a lot of weeks.”

Playoff experience is talked about quite a bit this time of year. Future Hall of Famer and one-time Super Bowl champion Drew Brees will be leading the Saints, while Keenum will be making his first postseason start. He was on the practice squad of the Texans’ playoff team in 2012 and hopes that has given him a hint of what to expect this weekend.

“That was my redshirt year in the NFL,” he said, “but to be part of a playoff run like that and see the preparation that was put into it and how quickly the game goes was a good experience for me.”

A win over the Saints would send the Vikings to the NFC Championship game for the first time since 2009 and would be their first playoff victory since beating the Cowboys in 2010. A lot will depend on how Keenum plays.

“I’m going to play like I know how to play,” he said. “I don’t have to be anybody but myself. Whether it’s more conservative or less conservative either way I’m going to be me. I have a great squad, a great offensive line, great receivers, and great running backs who can make some plays and a great defense. If I perform like I know I can we’re going to be good.”

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