At this time last season, the Minnesota Vikings were 5-0 headed into their bye week. The defense was by far the best in football, and recently acquired passer Sam Bradford seemed on pace for a career year, at that point having thrown six touchdowns and no interceptions. As every NFL fan knows, the bottom fell out and the team finished 8-8. A rash of injuries along the line and in the middle of the defense hampered their ability to compete late in the season.
Now, the Vikings are 3-2 headed into a key divisional game against the hated Green Bay Packers. The defense has again been stellar, and the offensive line has been much improved. The surprise though, is Bradford, who, after a fantastic week one, has played just two shaky quarters since. Backup Case Keenum has stepped up and has had a strong start to the year. Still, analysts and fans doubt Minnesota’s ability to overcome the loss of Bradford. They are all forgetting another quarterback who could be back on the field much sooner than most think.
2017 Playing Out Perfectly for Teddy Bridgewater’s Comeback
When Teddy Bridgewater severely injured his knee in a late preseason practice last year, the concern was not when he’d be able to get back on the field. Fans were simple relieved to hear that he would not lose his leg. No one with any knowledge of the situation thought Bridgwater would be back on the field for the foreseeable feature. Not even the team knew if he’d ever return, evidenced by their declining of his fifth year option.
Even after showing great progress in his recovery in the preseason, most fans tried not to get their hopes up. Others simply bashed those routing for Bridgewater’s recovery, claiming they were not supporting Bradford as they should.
Now, it appears Bridgwater will likely be on the active roster in a week’s time. Meanwhile Bradford may have taken his last snap in a Vikings uniform. Bridgewater is eligible to return from the Physically Unable to Perform list next Monday, October 16th, pending a physical. The following week, the Vikings have a home game against the Baltimore Ravens. Fans should not expect Bridgewater to even be active on game day.
The next week, the Vikings will cross the pond to face off against the Cleveland Browns in London. This game could be the first time Bridgewater gets back on the gridiron for live game action. Expect Keenum to start both of the next games. If the team is able to build a two or three score lead in the fourth quarter in London, though, Bridgewater could get his chance to step back onto the field.
Following the Browns game is the bye week. Whether or not Bridgewater plays against the Browns, expect him to start two weeks later against Washington. This of course is all dependent on two factors: Bridgewater’s being cleared to play and Bradford’s inability to recover from his latest injury setback.
Bradford’s injury has been described both as a bone bruise and as wear-and-tear on his knee, the same knee that he tore his ACL in twice. After reportedly being healthy enough to play, he seemed gun-shy and in pain against the Bears last Monday. Some have suggested that his injury history may have given him arthritis in his knee. No matter the exact injury, it does not seem like the kind of injury that goes away. Rather, it seems like the kind of debilitating condition that could prematurely end his career.
Regardless of his future in Minnesota, Bradford should not step on the field again until his knee is completely healthy. Unfortunately for the former Heisman Trophy winner, it seems unlikely he will be healthy in time to keep his starting job. He could end up on injured reserve if Bridgewater returns to the active roster in the coming days.
The whole timetable outlined above is dependent on Bridgewater returning from the PUP list as soon as possible. It will not be as simple as passing a physical though. If the Vikings keep Bridgewater on the PUP all season, his contract will toll until next season. If the team and Bridgewater disagree about the health of his knee, though, it could lead to an ugly split. However, head coach Mike Zimmer has stated that he expects Bridgewater to play this season, which suggests the team will remove him from the PUP list as soon as they can.
Until Bridgewater or Bradford can play, Keenum has shown he can hold down the fort. He is 2-2 in games he has played in this season. If the team can reach the bye week 3-3 or 4-2, Bridgewater can make a playoff run.
Bridgewater being the Vikings quarterback of the future has been the team’s plan since trading up to draft him with the last pick of the first round in 2014. While that plan was delayed by injury, the time is approaching to resume his journey to become the franchise passer many know he can be.
Behind a much improved offensive line, with a strong receiving corps and an elite defense, Bridgewater can lead Minnesota back to the playoffs. If he can play as well as he did before the unfortunate injury, not only could he win comeback player of the year, but he could give the team the boost they need to make a bid at a Super Bowl.