The Vikings sent social media into a tizzy this past week by releasing a 38-second video of an offseason workout. Except this was anything but random.
The team peeled back the curtain on Teddy Bridgewater’s recovery from a gruesome knee injury with a peekaboo video that showed Bridgewater throwing a few passes set to slow motion and dramatic music.
Cue rampant speculation.
Look, there’s Teddy at OTA practice and he’s dropping back and throwing passes. What does it mean? Is he closer to returning than most of us knew or anticipated?
Until that video surfaced, Bridgewater’s recovery has been rather hush-hush, leaving a general assumption outside of Winter Park that he was nowhere close to returning.
And it sounds like he’s still not.
The Vikings have avoided placing a timetable on Bridgewater’s return. His injury was too extensive to fit normal protocol. Knowing that General Manager Rick Spielman never has been one to share sensitive team matters, the video felt oddly uncharacteristic, almost as if the team was trying to send a message.
Doesn’t take much to stir up NFL conspiracy theories.
Spielman clarified the video’s intent the following day, saying Bridgewater remains “very limited.” But those brief images served to remind that Bridgewater is hellbent on defying odds and that the organization’s future at quarterback remains fluid when viewed beyond the immediacy of the moment.
Spielman faces a complex set of circumstances in navigating this situation. Neither Bridgewater nor Sam Bradford is under contract after the 2017 season.
The Vikings made a logical business decision in not picking up the fifth-year option on Bridgewater’s rookie contract. Too risky given all the uncertainty with his health.
And so far, the team has not extended Bradford’s deal, leaving him with one final season on his contract. That’s a wise move, too.
Continuity is ideal at that position — a foreign concept for this organization, yes — but the Vikings don’t have that luxury right now. They need to see if Bridgewater recovers fully and if Bradford plays at a level that warrants a long-term deal.
It’s unknown if Bradford’s camp has approached the organization about a new contract this offseason, though one can guess he desires stability at this stage of his career.
Extending Bradford has merit, but exhibiting patience is a smarter choice. Bradford performed admirably under tough circumstances last season, but there’s no need for the Vikings to leap to any conclusions long term until seeing how he handles this upcoming season with better personnel surrounding him.
That makes it impossible to declare with certainty who will be the starting quarterback in the 2018 season opener. Could be Bradford. Could be Bridgewater. Could be someone else completely, if the organization decides to start over again.
Spielman declined to speculate on whether Bridgewater will be ready for training camp at the end of July, but designating him to the physically unable to perform list remains a safe bet.
Mike Zimmer already has declared that Bradford has earned the job this season, but Zimmer also makes no attempt to hide his affection for Bridgewater. The organization is emotionally and financially invested in both quarterbacks, setting up a fascinating subplot once Bridgewater is cleared to play.
A few months ago, many of us couched discussions about Bridgewater with “… if he ever plays again.” Though nothing is guaranteed, his return now seems a matter of when, not if.
The Vikings wouldn’t have released that video if they didn’t feel reasonably optimistic about his progress. Bridgewater hasn’t talked publicly since his injury so his outlook on his recovery and return date remain private. His coaches and teammates aren’t doubting him.
“He’s working his rear end off,” Zimmer said from his Kentucky home where he’s recuperating from eye surgery. “It just makes you proud for him, the work he’s put in. He’s still got a long way to go. But he’s progressing as well as anyone could expect.”
The Vikings provided a glimpse of that progress in a video that caught the public by surprise. Bridgewater has been out of sight, but he’s no longer out of mind.