The morning after each Vikings game, beat writer Ben Goessling dives in for a deeper look at a key aspect of how the Vikings played, and what it means for the team going forward:
Case Keenum started his fourth game of the season for the Vikings on Sunday, after his relief performance of Sam Bradford on Monday night and a week where he received all the first-team work as the starting quarterback.
Coach Mike Zimmer said he didn’t believe any of the Vikings’ injuries were season-ending, other than Dalvin Cook’s torn ACL. That would include Bradford, who is still dealing with issues in his left knee that stem from the two torn ACLs he sustained in 2013 and 2014. Zimmer was asked about Bradford in light of a report from Fox’s Jay Glazer that said the quarterback’s condition could be career-threatening. But even if Bradford is able to return this season, the imprecise nature of his knee issues — and his lackluster performance on Monday night in Chicago — suggest he could need more time to return.
The smart money, at this point, would be on Keenum starting Sunday against the Ravens. But this being the Vikings, the quarterback situation can never be cut-and-dried. In fact, things are about to get a lot more interesting.
Dr. Dan Cooper, who performed Teddy Bridgewater’s knee surgery on Sept. 8, 2016, will evaluate the quarterback on Monday. If Cooper clears Bridgewater, and the Vikings sign off on it, the quarterback could return to the practice field as soon as Wednesday. The Vikings’ plan all along has been to get Bridgewater practicing soon after Week 6, and signs point to the quarterback being ready to go. He’s been doing extensive rehab work in recent weeks, and has looked impressive in brief glimpses of his throwing sessions, flashing overhauled mechanics that have the quarterback driving off a flexed back leg and putting less stress on his surgically-repaired front leg.
If Bridgewater returns to the practice field this week, the Vikings would have three weeks to make a decision about whether to put him on their active roster, meaning he could be ready to go by the second half of the season (or sooner). What seemed farfetched at one point — that Bridgewater is back on the field by the time the Vikings return from their bye week — now appears to be a possibility. The questions about the quarterback’s ability to protect himself, cut at full speed and recover from a hit won’t be fully answered until he gets in a game, but everything I’ve heard about what he’s done to this point suggests he’s on track for a return.
Could Bridgewater play more than Bradford in the final two months of the year? We won’t have a full sense of that possibility for a few more weeks, when more is known about the health of both quarterbacks, but that scenario appears more viable at this point than it has in some time.
Keenum’s performance, though, means the Vikings have the luxury of letting things play out to some degree. They have a home game against the Ravens next week, followed by a visit to London to play the hapless Browns, and they’re guaranteed to be no worse than 4-4 heading into their bye week. At a time where the Packers are reeling after the loss of Aaron Rodgers, the Lions have lost two straight and the Bears are 2-4, the Vikings have every opportunity to win the NFC North. They could be trying to do it with all their quarterbacking questions coming to a head at the same time.
“I don’t make anything of it,” Keenum said. “I’m playing quarterback, and I love to play quarterback. I love this team, I love this offense, and I love the atmosphere. I love the stadium. It’s a great spot. Like I said, there’s a lot of externals in this business, and it’s your job to talk through every possibility in everything that goes on, but that’s not my job, so I don’t have to answer that question. I can go out and play quarterback and have fun.”