In 2012 and 2013, linebacker Bryan Braman and quarterback Case Keenum were Houston Texans teammates, Keenum spending 2012 on the practice squad, after going undrafted out of the University of Houston.
"No," Braman said Tuesday, when asked if he ever thought he'd be preparing to face Keenum in a conference championship game.
"I'm happy for him. Just watching him through his career, all the ups and downs and everything, he's a great guy, great person," said Braman, who plays mostly on special teams for the Eagles. "It has to do with his persistence. In this league, if you don't keep at it, it can chew you up and spit you out."
Keenum was a Texan in 2012 and 2013, was waived at the end of training camp in 2014 and was claimed by the Rams. He came back to Houston after being claimed off the Rams' practice squad in December 2014. But the following March, the Rams got him back for a seventh-round 2016 pick. Keenum began 2015 backing up Nick Foles, eventually succeeded Foles as the starter, and began 2016 in that role, before giving way during the season to No.1 overall pick Jared Goff.
The Vikings had nothing more than insurance in mind when they signed Keenum in 2017 to a one-year deal to back up Sam Bradford, as Teddy Bridgewater continued his rehab from a devastating 2016 knee injury. Bradford played an outstanding season opener, maybe the best game of his career, but suffered yet another knee injury, and Keenum got his chance.
"I think he knows what makes him a good player. He does a good job of highlighting that," Braman said. "He knows what his deficiencies are and he … plays to his strengths."
Braman said that Keenum, who clocked in at 6-feet-and-half-an-inch, 208 pounds at the 2012 NFL scouting combine, "knows he's undersized and does his best to get the ball out where it's supposed to be … He's good the majority of the time with making the right throws … delivered on time."
Eagles right guard Brandon Brooks also played in Houston with Keenum, for both of Keenum's quarterbacking stints there. Brooks said Keenum reminds him very much of Foles, off the field.
"God-first guys, high character guys. You'll never hear anything negative said about either guy. Always super-positive," Brooks said. "Both have overcome obstacles to be in the positions they are now – throughout their careers."
Brooks recalled Keenum having a lot of success initially in 2013; "He was kind of a sparkplug for the offense." So Brooks said he isn't shocked to see Keenum where he is now.
"The things you see him do now – especially throws on the run – I thought he always excelled at," Brooks said of Keenum, who completed 67.6 percent of his passes this season, for 3,547 yards, 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions. "He went to U of H and set all those records … I didn't know much about him, coming out, but in Houston, he was a bigger celebrity than [then-starter Matt] Schaub was. In Houston, he was the man."
In college, Keenum first redshirted behind Kevin Kolb, before Kolb was drafted by the Eagles in 2007. Keenum suffered a torn ACL three games into the 2010 season and was granted a sixth year of eligibility in 2011, which he used to start graduate school. Draft experts questioned his size and his adaptability from a system that wasn't much like what most NFL teams run.
Eagles safety Rodney McLeod played with both Foles and Keenum on the 2015 Rams.
"Good quarterback, good leader … doesn't turn the ball over much," McLeod said. "Has a nice touch on the ball and competes his butt off. Those are all things I've seen when I was with the Rams and I'm seeing right now, as he's getting his opportunity."
McLeod said he practiced against Keenum a lot when Keenum was the backup, running the scout team, then saw him win games as a starter. But McLeod didn't want to compare Foles and Keenum as Rams quarterbacks – he said he didn't remember much from that season.
"He's won in this league … He's been given the opportunity and he's making the most of it," McLeod said of Keenum.
McLeod said Keenum's mobility has been a big factor in his success in Minnesota.
"Their receivers seem to do a good job of adjusting and knowing his skillset," McLeod said. "That's why they're good – he's not turning the ball over, [is] making the right throws."
McLeod said the focus will be on containment for the front seven this Sunday. "He's a shorter-stature guy, so try to get [rushers in his face], and do our job in the back end, knowing we're going to have to plaster our guys for a little bit longer this week. A lot different than last week – Matt Ryan was able to escape a little bit, but Case has a little more ability [on the run]."
Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said Tuesday that Keenum is "a smart, veteran player that knows where to go with the ball and hasn't made a lot of mistakes."