EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Exactly one year ago, Teddy Bridgewater dropped back to pass during a routine drill and tumbled to the ground with a devastating injury to his left knee .
The unflappable Bridgewater has made a remarkable recovery, but he still has a long way to go before he can return to action with the Minnesota Vikings.
“He’s got to be able to protect himself on the field and be able to do the movements that are required by his position,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “When he’s there, he’ll practice.”
Bridgewater has taken questions from reporters only once since the fateful afternoon of Aug. 30, 2016, when teammates were jolted by the sight of their popular quarterback writhing in pain and head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman had to lead a hasty effort to save his leg.
Each day during training camp this summer, with the rest of the Vikings working on strategy and technique, Bridgewater has been off to the side simply working on rebuilding strength in and around the knee that suffered a dislocation and multiple ligament tears.
“The reports I get are all positive,” Zimmer said when asked about Bridgewater after practice Tuesday. “He knows where he’s at and knows where he’s got to get. I think he’s progressing well.
“I know that he’s all in trying to get ready to play.”
That much has been obvious. Bridgewater said on July 27 that a resumption of his career “is going to happen.” There’s just no telling exactly when. Zimmer has said an in-season return for Bridgewater remains a possibility, but as long as starter Sam Bradford and backup Case Keenum are healthy, there would be no reason for the Vikings to rush him back. With such an unusually enormous injury, the timetable is more difficult to map out.
The long-term plan at the sport’s most important position is, too.
Vikings general manager Rick Spielman hustled to trade a first-round draft pick to Philadelphia for Bradford four days after Bridgewater was hurt. Bradford played well in 2016 despite the abrupt arrival and leaky offensive line, but he’s in the final year of his contract, with a massive payday looming for 2018 and beyond.
Bridgewater is in the last season of his rookie deal, which according to the collective bargaining agreement will allow the Vikings to roll over the terms for another year if he’s still on the physically-unable-to-perform list as of the sixth regular season game. That maneuver could be contested by the NFL Players Association.
For now, though, the biggest challenge remains Bridgewater’s rehabilitation.
“I think we handled it well as far as the things that we had to do,” Zimmer said. “I still think the trade was the right trade for us. Obviously, it was a freak thing that happened with Teddy, but I don’t know, I guess you always handle it the best way you can and try to figure it out. I think Rick did a good job.”