The Vikings' lofty hopes took a serious hit Tuesday when starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater appeared to suffer a major leg injury.
About 25 minutes into practice, in the first team drill of the day, Bridgewater dropped back in the pocket but crumpled to the turf, seemingly without being touched. As he clutched the area around his left knee, linebacker Eric Kendricks and other teammates spiked helmets and shouted expletives. Some Vikings dropped to one knee in disbelief as athletic trainers rushed to the third-year quarterback.
Two minutes later, coach Mike Zimmer ended practice and sent his players inside. Running back Adrian Peterson, guard Alex Boone, running back Matt Asiata, defensive end Brian Robison, cornerback Terence Newman and backup quarterback Shaun Hill lingered on the field, surrounding Bridgewater.
Soon, an ambulance pulled up to Winter Park, whisking Bridgewater away.
A team spokesman said that Zimmer will meet with reporters this afternoon.
The Vikings were expecting a breakout season from Bridgewater in 2016 after two solid seasons in the league. His strong play in training camp translated to the preseason, when he completed 18 of his 23 pass attempts for 253 yards and two touchdowns. Bridgewater averaged 11 yards per attempt in his two preseason starts and he complied an impressive 141.5 passer rating.
In Sunday's 23-10 win over the San Diego Chargers at U.S. Bank Stadium, he showed no signs of the shoulder soreness that sidelined him for the second preseason game on Aug. 18. He threw for 161 yards and a touchdown in the first half in what was supposed to be his final appearance this preseason.
Hill was expected to be Bridgewater's primary backup heading into the regular season. Undrafted rookie Joel Stave was vying to make the 53-man roster as their third quarterback with second-year signal-caller Taylor Heinicke still on the non-football injury list after undergoing foot surgery in July. The Vikings officially waived quarterback Brad Sorensen this morning.
The Vikings expressed interest in free-agent quarterback Nick Foles a month ago as additional insurance for Bridgewater, but he signed with Kansas City.
The Vikings, whom Bridgewater guided to an 11-5 record and the NFC North title in 2015, open the regular season at the Tennessee Titans on Sept. 11.