By Anthony Brousseau
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s been more than 400 days since Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater last stepped on the field with his team during a game. After an excruciating knee injury felled him in practice before last season, he has spent 14 months recovering. While his journey back to the field isn’t quite over, Vikings fans got an exciting, encouraging update Wednesday.
The Vikings have elevated Bridgewater to the active roster. He’s been practicing with the team since mid-October, and while it’s still unknown when he’ll see game action, his activation shows how far he’s come in the last year.
Here’s a look back at how Bridgewater got to this point.
Jan. 10, 2016 — Teddy Bridgewater’s second season with the Vikings ended with a 10-9 playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks after Blair Walsh missed a last minute field goal.
Bridgewater threw for 3,321 yards that season with 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Despite his mediocre stats, he made the Pro Bowl as a replacement. After leading the Vikings to an 11-5 record, division win and playoff berth, Bridgewater would go into the offseason as the unquestioned leader of the Vikings.
Aug. 28 — The U.S. Bank Stadium era kicks off with a 23-10 Vikings victory over the San Diego Chargers in the preseason. Bridgewater completes 12 of 16 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown before sitting out the rest of the tilt.
“The shoulder’s feeling great,” Bridgewater said. “I had some fun out there playing with the guys, and I can’t wait to get back out there.”
Two days later, Bridgewater’s sore shoulder would be the furthest thing from anyone’s mind.
Aug. 30 — Less than a half hour into practice, Bridgewater collapses on the field during a routine dropback. Players reported Bridgewater grabbing his left knee and screaming. Trainers immediately jump into action. An ambulance arrives at Winter Park and takes Bridgewater to the hospital.
Vikings officials announce that Bridgewater will definitely miss the 2016 season, and his future beyond that is in doubt. An MRI shows a complete ACL tear and other structural damage, although Bridgewater avoids nerve or arterial damage, a major positive that looked minor in the light at that time.
“Today’s a disappointing day but we’re going to fight like we always do,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, one of Bridgewater’s staunchest supporters, said. “My wife died seven years ago and the sun came up the very next day. The sun will come up tomorrow and we’ll get back to work.”
Aug. 31 — Twenty-four hours after Bridgewater’s hideous injury, Vikings fans were hoping for any slight bit of positive news. Like many of Bridgewater’s best plays, they would take whatever was given to them.
Unfortunately, what was given to them was a grim diagnosis. In an interview with WCCO, an orthopedic surgeon uninvolved in Bridgewater’s case called the quarterback’s injury “a freak occurrence.”
“It’s not a very pretty sight,” Dr. Alan Markman said.
Sept. 1 — Bridgewater releases a statement, the first time anyone has heard from him publicly.
“In order to have a testimony, you have to have a test,” the statement read in part. “I come from amazing DNA, I watched my mom fight and win against breast cancer. We will, as a team, attack my rehab with the same vigor and energy. My faith is strong, my faith is unwavering and my vision is clear. My purpose will not be denied.”
Sept. 3 — When the sun came up Sept. 3, just as Zimmer predicted it would, the Vikings were rudderless at the quarterback position. By the time the sun set, a trade no one saw coming gave them some measure of stability at the position.
The Vikings traded their 2017 first round pick and a conditional 2018 fourth round pick for Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford. The former first overall pick started his career with the St. Louis Rams and never quite lived up to his draft status.
Media and fans are split on the trade, with some hailing GM Rick Spielman for making a necessary move and others bashing the team for giving up valuable draft picks for an injury-prone, mediocre passer.
Sept. 8 — Bridgewater undergoes surgery on his left knee, beginning a recovery process that has no definitive ending.
Sept. 9 — Vikings athletic trainer Eric Sugarman, widely considered one of the best in the NFL, releases a statement on Bridgewater’s surgery, calling it “excellent” and saying the surgery “gives Teddy every reason to be very optimistic.”
After the surgery in Dallas, Bridgewater returns to Minnesota to begin rehabbing.
Sept. 18 — Bradford proves he is no ersatz replacement for Bridgewater in his first start for the Vikings. In a 17-14 win over the rival Green Bay Packers, Bradford completes 71 percent of his passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns, including a 25-yarder to Stefon Diggs that Bradford slices over a defender while being pounded into the ground.
It takes exactly one game for fans and media to begin questioning if Bradford is the future of the Vikings.
Jan. 27, 2017 — Reports come out that, in addition to missing 2016, Bridgewater is likely to miss the entire 2017 season as well.
March 28 — Bridgewater posts a video of himself dropping back and throwing on social media. While it’s just a small step in the recovery process, it shows Bridgewater is ahead of schedule and gives Vikings fans hope that the former franchise quarterback may earn that moniker once again.
May 3 — The deadline to pick up the fifth year option for 2014 first round draft picks passes, with the Vikings declining to pick up Bridgewater’s. Picking up the option would have guaranteed Bridgewater’s $11 million 2018 salary.
May 23 — The Vikings start organized team activities, and Bridgewater shows he is ahead of schedule in his recovery by throwing passes with his teammates.
May 24 — One day after teasing fans with a video of Bridgewater throwing with the team, the Vikings say his recovery timeline is still unclear.
“Just hoping that eventually he’ll be able to come back on the field, but that’s still the unknown,” said general manager Rick Spielman.
Spielman clarifies that while Bridgewater was throwing with the team, he was not cleared for full practice.
July 14 — Bridgewater continues his cryptic social media recovery campaign by posting a picture of himself working out in the rain — without a knee brace.
July 26 — The Vikings place Bridgewater on the physically unable to perform list as they begin training camp, leaving no doubt that Bridgewater will miss a significant part, if not all, of the 2017 season.
Aug. 30 — The one-year anniversary of Bridgewater’s injury comes and goes without much fanfare. Unfortunately, there’s no dramatic development to mark the occasion. Just a single tweet from Bridgewater.
Sept. 10 — Bridgewater starts the season still on the PUP list, meaning he’ll miss at least the first six games, if not more.
After six games, Bridgewater will be given a five-week window to practice. The team then has three weeks to decide whether to activate him or leave him on the PUP list for the remainder of the season.
Sept. 11 — The Vikings begin the season at home against the New Orleans Saints. The dominant storyline coming into the game was the return of Adrian Peterson, the former Viking who signed with the Saints in the offseason.
After the game, though, Sam Bradford dominated headlines. He completed 84.4 percent of his passes for 346 yards and three touchdowns in the Vikings’ 29-19 win.
Media members and fans begin to question if this is Bradford’s team now. The Vikings have yet to sign him to an extension and he will be a free agent after this season.
Sept. 15 — ESPN reports Bradford underwent an MRI on his left knee. Bradford has had ACL surgery twice on that knee. Zimmer says, despite the reports, he expects Bradford to start.
Sept. 17 — The Vikings announce Bradford is inactive for their game against the Steelers. Backup quarterback Case Keenum takes the reins, but the Vikings’ offense falters in a 26-9 loss.
After the game, a visibly frustrated Zimmer says Bradford could miss up to six weeks. Bradford sits out the next three games before returning for the Oct. 9 game against the Bears. He is visibly uncomfortable on the field and Keenum replaces him before halftime.
Oct. 8 — CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora reports the Vikings plan to activate Bridgewater from the PUP list after the team’s Week 6 game against the Packers. After Bridgewater returns to practice, the Vikings have a three week window to evaluate Bridgewater. After that window, the Vikings must either put Bridgewater on the active roster or place him on the PUP list for the remainder of the season.
Oct. 16 — Zimmer says Bridgewater has been medically cleared to practice and will join the team on the field Wednesday, Oct. 18.
“Yeah it’s great, he’s worked extremely hard,” coach Mike Zimmer said.
Zimmer says Bridgewater will stay on the PUP list until he is ready to play.
Oct. 18 — Bridgewater returns to the practice field. He says he is “very confident” and that he would have practiced even earlier if he had been eligible.
“I definitely believe I’ll play this year. But I can’t just sit here and say it. I have to continue to put the work in, on the field, on the practice field, and show the training staff, the higher authority, that eventually I can get back to the player who I was,” Bridgewater said.
Nov. 1 — Despite Bridgewater’s return to the practice field, Spielman says the team is still unsure whether he will be added to the active roster ahead of the Nov. 8 deadline. If the team determines Bridgewater is not healthy enough to be active by that date, he must return to the PUP list for the rest of the season.
Nov. 6 — CBS Sports reports that Bridgewater will indeed return to the active roster before the deadline on Nov. 8, but he will remain the backup to Keenum for the team’s Week 10 game against Washington.
Nov. 8 — The Vikings announce Bridgwater has been returned to the active roster.
Just over a year after the Vikings lost what looked to be their franchise quarterback before replacing him with someone no one thought would take a snap for the Vikings that year, the team is back in the same longship.
Time is a flat circle. Nothing purple and gold can stay. Like sands through the hourglass, these are the days of our lives.
Welcome back, Teddy. SKOL.