MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It was one year ago Wednesday that everything changed for the Minnesota Vikings.
Their hopeful future franchise quarterback nearly lost his left leg doing a simple drop back during a non-contact drill at Winter Park. Teddy Bridgewater went down, and he wasn’t getting back up under his own power any time soon. It happened during a portion of practice when cameras weren’t allowed, so there is no footage of the injury.
What we do know is his leg collapsed, knee dislocated and ligaments tore. Practice came to a halt, players emotionally gathered in prayer and head trainer Eric Sugarman rushed to Bridgewater just to keep his leg intact. An ambulance came to take Bridgewater to the hospital, something unheard of by NFL standards unless it’s a life-threatening situation.
Bridgewater’s season was over, and his career was in jeopardy. He had looked great in the preseason and appeared destined to lead the Vikings to the playoffs. It was another gut punch for Minnesota sports fans. A season full of hope was coming crashing down.
The injury forced General Manager Rick Spielman to trade the team’s 2017 first-round pick to Philadelphia for Sam Bradford, a Heisman Trophy winner and former No. 1 overall pick himself. He ended up being the most accurate passer in the NFL last year, largely because he was throwing short passes to avoid sacks.
It’s been 365 days since Bridgewater’s injury, and all signs point to him making it back on the field at some point. Whether it’s in a Vikings jersey is another matter. Bridgewater posted this tweet on Wednesday, a year almost exactly to the minute when the injury happened.
I never asked God why this happened to me, I’ve only told him thank you. A year later, he’s showing me why this happened to me.
— Teddy Bridgewater (@teddyb_h2o) August 30, 2017
Bridgewater has been doing side work throughout training camp and preseason practices, and has even been seen throwing passes without a brace on that surgically reconstructed knee. He’s likely to start the season on the physically unable to perform list. But it’s not inconceivable that he could return to the active roster this season, and perhaps play.
If he is placed on the PUP list, as expected, Bridgewater at the earliest could return for Week 7 at Baltimore on Oct. 22. That depends on a combination of his health, Bradford’s play and if he doesn’t get hurt. Case Keenum is the No. 2 for now, and Taylor Heinicke has played well enough to secure a roster spot if they Vikings keep three quarterbacks.
Where it could get complicated for the Vikings is after the season. Both Bridgewater and Bradford are in contract years after the Vikings didn’t pick up the final year on Bridgewater’s contract. It was expected after his injury. The Vikings would be inclined to keep Bridgewater if he’s deemed fully healthy and can play. Coach Mike Zimmer said he won’t practice with the team until he knows he can move around and take a hit without risking injury. He also said Zimmer knows Bridgewater is determined and “all-in” to get back on the field.
Bradford is seeking a long-term contract, stability and faith that a franchise believes in him. If the Vikings re-sign Bradford, it wouldn’t be until after the season and it would signal the end of Bridgewater with the Vikings. If they commit to Bridgewater, Bradford likely leaves in free agency.
It’s something of a miracle that we can even fathom Bridgewater coming back at all. But what the Vikings front office decides to do this season with Bradford will go a long way towards Bridgewater’s future in Minnesota.