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Virtual Reality helped make Case Keenum good for real

Extra reps have helped the Vikings’ quarterback have a career seasons

NFL: Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

We heard all of the stories after Teddy Bridgewater was drafted about how he was able to put the Minnesota Vikings’ offense into his copy of Madden NFL on his XBox and use it to get some extra “mental reps” in preparation for the season. While it did seem to help Bridgewater prior to his injury, it appears that the Vikings took that to the next level, and the biggest beneficiary has been Case Keenum.

Courtney Cronin of ESPN shared a cool story today about how the Vikings have embraced virtual reality, and how the quarterbacks. . .and, specifically, Keenum. . .have benefitted as a result.

Rick Spielman had apparently sat down with all of the team’s quarterbacks prior to the season, and asked them if VR was something that they wanted to incorporate into their preparations for the season. Keenum had a demo of the system from a company called STRIVR during his time with the Rams, and expressed that it would be pretty beneficial to help him prepare for both OTAs and Training Camp.

For a bit of an idea of exactly how the STRIVR training works, here’s a video where their CEO discusses it a bit. (There are plenty of other videos on it out there, too.)

According to Cronin’s story, since Keenum took over the starting duties in Week 2, he has viewed over 2,600 plays through the virtual platform. That’s a lot of “mental reps,” and while the folks from STRIVR haven’t taken all of the credit for those reps resulting in an uptick in Keenum’s performance, it certainly doesn’t appear as though they feel it’s hurt things.

“The tendency for a quarterback against the blitz is to speed up when he sees the blitz coming when, in reality, he needs to slow down,” Belch said. “I know it’s only fractions of a second. He needs to say, ‘Where do I need to go? What do I need to do to not make a hurried decision?’ I think seeing these reps again and again in VR helps these guys do that.”

While it obviously isn’t the same as being on the field itself, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the work that Keenum has put in with this new technology has been a help to him. With most things, the only way to truly get better at them is to do them over and over again, and the STRIVR training has allowed him to do that. He can practice the physical part of the game out on the practice field or in the gym, and then go and focus on the mental aspect here.

According to Cronin’s article, at the end of each week, Keenum goes into the VR room and spends about 20 to 25 minutes doing a final sort of “tune-up.” During that time, he can get through a couple hundred reps.

I’m certain that the Vikings’ other quarterbacks are doing the same thing at this point, and it certainly sounds like this is something that the Vikings are going to make significant use of in the future. For now, though, with Keenum preparing for the biggest game of his NFL career, it’s nice to see that the path to where he’s gotten to this season hasn’t necessarily been a conventional one.