EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer believes that Sam Bradford’s injured left knee is getting better. Zimmer is not sure when it will improve enough to allow the team’s starting quarterback to return to the field.
Zimmer tried to be a little more forthcoming Monday about Bradford’s health, a day after some ornery and curt answers only seemed to add more confusion to the situation. He said that he did not believe Bradford’s injury would be long term, but said there was no timeline for his return.
“I anticipate that when he is ready to practice and he is ready to play, that he will play,” Zimmer said. “Honestly, I don’t have a crystal ball. I know you guys want to ask me about all these things, but I don’t have a crystal ball. Wish I did. I’d call some games better.”
One point that Zimmer could deliver definitively: The Vikings will not be looking to bring in another quarterback to bolster the depth while Bradford works his way back. Backup Case Keenum struggled in the 26-9 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, going 20 for 37 for 167 yards.
The frenzied performance notwithstanding, Zimmer said he felt comfortable going forward with Keenum as his quarterback until Bradford is healthy. That appears to eliminate, for now, any possibility that Colin Kaepernick could be brought in to try to give the Vikings a boost.
“Short week against a pretty exotic defense,” Zimmer said. “They are very physical and fast. I thought he battled. I’m sure he would say he could do better on some things, but he did some good things as well.”
The Vikings entered the season with a unique depth chart at quarterback. Bradford was the unquestioned starter and turned in a brilliant Week 1 performance in a win over the Saints. They also have Teddy Bridgewater, the one-time franchise quarterback still recovering from a horrific leg injury before last season; he’s on the physically unable to perform list. After missing all of last season, Bridgewater has made promising progress in his comeback and is hopeful to be cleared to play at some point this season.
With that in mind, the Vikings opened with just Bradford and Keenum on the active roster and signed Kyle Sloter from the practice squad Saturday as an emergency move when it was determined Bradford would not be able to play.
Until Bradford is ready, it’s just Keenum and Sloter, who was cut by Denver and came to Minnesota just before the season began and is still trying to learn the playbook.
“I’m not a master of it like Case or Sam are,” Sloter said. “I could get in there and run about 70-80 percent of the playbook successfully. That’s going to come with time. I’d say in the next couple of weeks, I’ll be pretty good.”
Keenum was under pressure for much of the game against Pittsburgh, but Zimmer indicated some of that could have been created by Keenum dropping back too deep in the pocket and putting his offensive linemen in a difficult position.
Zimmer raised some eyebrows after the game when he said that Bradford could be ready “maybe next week. Maybe in six weeks.” He said Monday he was being facetious and apologized for snapping at reporters in the heat of the moment after a disappointing performance. In his four seasons coaching the Vikings, Zimmer has often chafed when asked about injuries. He says that comes from a desire to protect his players and from the push for answers when he simply does not have them.
“Sometimes after the game I’m upset and I know our fans deserve better than that,” Zimmer said. “They didn’t have any wine for me in the locker room to chill out a little bit.”