Even with Kirk Cousins on the Vikings’ roster and Teddy Bridgewater now with the New York Jets, the team’s former quarterback appeared to be as much a topic of conversation as its new one during the NFC coaches’ breakfast as part of the NFL owners’ meetings on Tuesday.
And in his comments to the reporters who are in Orlando this week, coach Mike Zimmer made it seem as though Bridgewater’s recovery from his Aug. 2016 knee injury hadn’t yet assuaged all the questions about his long-term reliability.
“The reports I'd get back from the medical people weren't as positive as I was about it,” Zimmer told the assembled media.“That's kind of how it came down is that his knee wasn't as…he still has some recovery to do. When I watched him in practice he moved well, I didn't see limitations but from what I’m told there was some.”
Bridgewater served as the Vikings’ backup quarterback for the second half of the season after being activated from the physically-unable-to-perform list on Nov. 8, but was not active for either of the team’s playoff games. Zimmer said Tuesday morning that Bridgewater hadn’t suffered a setback, and that the decision to make Sam Bradford the backup against the Saints had more to do with the way Bradford had played against New Orleans in Week 1. But the opinion of the Vikings’ medical staff on the long-term health of Bridgewater’s knee evidently factored into the team’s evaluation of him after the season.
“It was more about, like, when you get a physical on a guy and his knee is A, B or C or D or whatever it was,” he said.“It was, as a long-term thing, to be nervous about. It was out of my hands.”
Bridgewater said little about his knee during his introductory press conference in New York, and his health could have been a major reason why he was only guaranteed $500,000 as part of his one-year deal with the Jets. Zimmer had said at the end of the 2017 season that of the 24 similar injuries to Bridgewater’s that the Vikings studied across all sports, only half of them ended with players returning to competition. He reiterated Thursday morning how dire the prognosis was after Bridgewater went down on Aug. 30, 2016, saying he initially thought the quarterback might not play or even walk again.
Ultimately, Bridgewater returned to practice just 14 months after the injury, making a brief appearance in relief of Case Keenum during the Vikings’ blowout win of the Cincinnati Bengals on Dec. 17. His time in Minnesota is over, though, and on Tuesday morning, Zimmer — who’s never made a secret of his fond feelings for Bridgewater — allowed that he had pictured it going much differently.
“I always told him, ‘You and I are going to be together forever. My career's going to go as long as your career goes,'” he said. “But it just didn't work out that way.”