Mike Zimmer concluded his opening remarks about Teddy Bridgewater’s performance Sunday with a friendly jab at the assembled media.
“I hope I don’t get any questions about his arm,” he said, smiling.
Don’t worry, Zim. Bridgewater’s final three throws of the preseason put to rest the mysterious shoulder issue that snowballed into an awkward dance between Zimmer and reporters last week.
Bridgewater’s arm is fine.
The Vikings’ new stadium looks fabulous, too.
Those two developments in a 23-10 victory over the San Diego Chargers made U.S. Bank Stadium’s unveiling as a football venue a success.
“The shoulders feel great,” Bridgewater said afterward, basically confirming that he was dealing with some ailment, not that official confirmation was needed.
His surprise scratch from the Seattle game coupled with Zimmer’s vow of silence and two subsequent practices in which Bridgewater didn’t attempt a pass provided pretty solid clues that something was amiss.
Thankfully, we can all move on to something else now.
Bridgewater’s health became a nonissue by halftime of Sunday’s third preseason game, which served as a last look before the regular season since Bridgewater and many other starters won’t play Thursday night in the final warmup.
Bridgewater finished a solid first half with a clinical two-minute drill. He connected on three consecutive passes that covered 68 yards, capped by a beauty to Kyle Rudolph for a 27-yard touchdown.
Bridgewater’s stat line for his only half: 12-for-16 passing for 161 yards with one touchdown, a 127.3 passer rating, three sacks and a nifty 22-yard scamper.
“I told you there was nothing to worry about,” Zimmer said. “Sometimes you’ve just got to trust me.”
Let’s not revisit the Teddy Twilight Zone again. The fact that Bridgewater looked crisp in his return suggests his issue was nothing more than training camp soreness that quarterbacks occasionally experience with a high volume of throws.
A healthy Bridgewater puts the Vikings in the smallish group of NFC teams that can legitimately consider themselves contenders to reach the Super Bowl. That’s based on the assumption that Bridgewater expands his game, the offensive line protects him better and the offense becomes more diverse as a result.
Those ifs shouldn’t be unreasonable.
Bridgewater’s outing Sunday was encouraging for reasons beyond his health. He showed a willingness to stand in the pocket and absorb hits while waiting an extra split-second for receivers to break open.
He took a couple of hard shots and survived unscathed. Chargers defensive end Tenny Palepoi drilled Bridgewater in the gut as he released the ball on a 19-yard completion to Charles Johnson during the two-minute drill. That was Bridgewater’s best throw of the game.
“He’s going to stand in there and take it,” Johnson said.
Bridgewater followed that throw with a 22-yard strike to Stefon Diggs near the sideline. And then he feathered a pass over the head of linebacker Manti Te’o to Rudolph for a touchdown.
“When we give this kid time to throw the ball,” Zimmer said, “I think you can see what he can do with it.”
Bridgewater also displayed some nifty footwork on a 22-yard run on the second possession. Taking off up the middle on a scramble, he juked safety Adrian Phillips nearly out of his cleats.
Bridgewater said he channeled his inner Adrian Peterson.
“When you get an opportunity, hey, I’m going to be like Adrian Peterson right here and make this guy miss,” he said. “You can’t make everyone miss, but I wasn’t going to let that guy bring me down.”
Bridgewater didn’t uncork any long balls — a missing component last season — but he was mostly efficient in directing the offense. Red zone offense remains a work in progress.
The Vikings’ first two series ended with field goals after moving inside the San Diego 10-yard line. Bridgewater accepted blame for the first stalled drive after overthrowing Johnson on a fade in the end zone.
On the second missed opportunity, Bridgewater had a pass tipped at the line and then was sacked on third down.
“If I would’ve hit the throw to [Johnson], I think it’s a different conversation,” he said.
The offense has two weeks of practice to work out the kinks before everything counts. At least the drama surrounding Bridgewater’s shoulder is officially over.