The Vikings might have their quarterback of the future, at least that’s how Mike Zimmer has evaluated Sam Bradford’s play in 2016.
Zimmer called Bradford “remarkable,” adding he’s done enough to earn the long-term job.
“He’s earned the right to be the starting quarterback,” Zimmer said Tuesday during his season-ending press conference. “Right now, all I’m worried about is Teddy [Bridgewater] getting better.”
The Vikings’ twisting-and-turning odd season began with Bridgewater hopeful for a breakout year in his third NFL season and ended with Bradford playing behind eight different offensive line combinations in 15 starts.
Bradford, whom the Vikings dealt a first-round pick and a fourth-round pick for in a trade with Philadelphia, set the single-season completion record (71.6%) in a limited offense. Though his play was far from the 28th-ranked offense’s biggest issues as the running game was one of the worst in franchise history.
Bradford, who turned 29 in November, is under contract next season. Though the Vikings could lock him up long-term given the uncertainty of Bridgewater’s return to football.
Bridgewater, the 32nd-overall selection in 2014, suffered a dislocated knee and multiple torn ligaments during a non-contact, routine practice drill Aug. 30. He’s been spotted walking around the sideline and locker room a few months into his recovery. He has so far declined interview requests.
“[Bridgewater] comes in here every single day, busts his rear end and I just want him to get better right now,” Zimmer said. “We’ll worry about all those things later. Sam has done remarkable the things he’s done this year and all the things he’s had to do.”
When asked to elaborate on Bridgewater’s injury, Zimmer said “I don’t know all the medical terms.” The team has stated Bridgewater’s ACL was torn, among other ligament damage.
The Vikings have employed studies on other players who have suffered similar injuries, but there’s no boilerplate timetable to return, Zimmer said. The Vikings did say following Bridgewater’s September surgery that he did not suffer nerve damage.
“It’s different with everyone, actually, with this injury he’s had it’s different with everyone,” Zimmer said. “I mean they went back and had whomever has had this injury, they’ve studied it. How long it takes to come back, how long it hasn’t come back. They’re all different. There’s no exact injury where it’s all the same, like talking about an ACL, well there’s lots of those and they’re all the same.
“This one there is really no exact, some are with nerve damage, some are without nerve damage. There’s just so many variables with this particular injury. … I do know this that Teddy is a guy that will do everything possible to get back as soon as he possibly can get back and he’d be a guy I’d never bet against.”