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Vikings' Pat Shurmur 'enjoyed' interviews last week, now focused on Saints

Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur speaks into his head set during the game with the Detroit Lions at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Nov. 6, 2016. Bruce Kluckhohn / USA TODAY Sports

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — With hopes that his hiring could help lure quarterback Case Keenum to the desert, Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has emerged as the leading candidate to become the next head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, according to a TV station in Phoenix.

In his first public comments since interviewing for head coaching jobs with multiple teams last week, Shurmur said he "enjoyed" those meetings but emphasized that his focus is back on the Vikings as they prepare for a divisional round playoff game against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, Jan. 14.

"I think we as coaches, our whole lives have learned how to stay in the moment," Shurmur said. "Again, you do one thing and then you move onto the next. I really enjoyed the time that I spent with those teams. But I got quickly back into preparing for the Saints. Fortunately, this is a team that we've played before. So (it has) the feel of kind of like a division game."

Shurmur, 52, is one of the most-sought-after coaches by the four remaining teams with head coach vacancies.

That's in part, the TV station in Arizona reported, because some are hopeful that hiring Shurmur could make it easier to sign Keenum, the 29-year-old quarterback who has blossomed with the Vikings and is set to become a free agent in the offseason.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians retired after posting an 8-8 record this season. Due to injuries, he was forced to start three different quarterbacks at least four games each.

Shurmur evaded one question when asked if he's begun contract negotiations with any teams, adding, "There's another time to talk about all that stuff."

He interviewed with multiple teams during the Vikings' bye week. One, the Chicago Bears, went a different direction, hiring former Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy. Oakland hired Monday Night Football analyst and former Raiders coach Jon Gruden for their vacancy, leaving four remaining teams searching for a head coach.

The New York Giants are another potential landing spot for Shurmur. The Detroit Lions, who interviewed Shurmur, and Indianapolis Colts also have coaching openings.

"Each situation is different," Shurmur said. "Every team right now that is not playing in the playoffs has quickly turned their focus to how am I going to improve my team. These are teams that are looking for a head coach. So they've got that as part of their process. They were very easy conversations in terms of what your philosophy might be. But I approached all of them with the same mind-set and then quickly put it on the back burner."

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Shurmur and Keenum "both think very highly of each other," and could land with the same team this offseason.

Shurmur spent two seasons as head coach of the Cleveland Browns, going 4-12 in 2011 and 5-11 in 2012. The Browns have won more than four games only once in the five seasons since firing Shurmur, going 0-16 this season.

Remmers at guard

It's beginning to look like Mike Remmers, who played right tackle for the Vikings most of the season, will move to left guard for Sunday's game.

Remmers lined up to the left of center Pat Elflein for a second straight practice on Thursday. He played right guard in the regular-season finale against the Chicago Bears on Dec. 31. At the start of practice Thursday, the Vikings had Riley Reiff at left tackle, Remmers at left guard, Elflein at center, Joe Berger at right guard and Rashod Hill at right tackle.

"He's a good player," Shurmur said of Remmers. "He's got enough size where he can anchor down, but he's also a guy that can move around. He uses his hands well, he works well together with the guard if he's playing tackle, and the tackle if he's playing guard. He's very smart. I consider him a fast blinker, so when things move around in there, he's able to sort through it. We knew he had played other positions, but he's proven to us that he's a pretty multiple guy."

No freeze-out

Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer was asked this week if he'd try to get U.S. Bank Stadium's big doors open for a little edge Sunday.

"If it's minus-2 we're going to have the doors open so they have to wear their longjohns," he said of the Saints.

The forecast at weather.com on Thursday predicted a low of minus-6 and a high of 14 with snow showers on Sunday, and rest assured the 95-foot tall, pivoting glass doors opening north to the Minneapolis sky line will be closed.

"They're afraid the pipes might freeze," Zimmer joked, "then we might have a lot of issues."

In reality, the Vikings' decision on whether to open the doors on game day is based in large part on fan comfort. The latest the doors have been open for a Vikings game at U.S. Bank Stadium was Nov. 6, 2016, an overtime loss to Detroit — the Vikings' only loss in seven games with the doors open.

It was 63 degrees and breezy at kickoff that day.

According to NFL rules, the Vikings have until 90 minutes before kickoff to make a decision but because they're opening doors and not a roof, they make it three hours before kickoff. Otherwise, they have to maneuver around thousands of fans pouring into the stadium.

The decision in this case already has been made.

Of course, who knows which team might benefit from a touch of cold on Sunday. Quarterback Drew Brees and the Saints play their home games in a climate-controlled dome, but so do the Vikings — it's just a much nicer stadium. Average game-time temperature on game days inside U.S. Bank Stadium is about 65 degrees.

Briefly

Veteran cornerback Terrence Newman (foot injury) was the lone Vikings player who did not participate in the team's Thursday practice.

Shamar Stephen (ankle) and Everson Griffen (foot) were limited participants in practice.

The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.

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