The Vikings have reeled off four consecutive victories despite injuries to several starters, but keeping their streak going won’t be easy without their first-string quarterback.
Thankfully, early indications are that Teddy Bridgewater will be back this weekend.
Bridgewater, who suffered a concussion during Sunday’s 21-18 victory over the St. Louis Rams, passed the first test in the NFL’s concussion protocol. If he can finish a strenuous workout without any lingering effects, he will be cleared to start against the Oakland Raiders. Coach Mike Zimmer is optimistic Bridgewater will be ready by Sunday.
“He should be good to go, I think,” Zimmer said.
Zimmer gave his players the day off after their hard-fought overtime victory, so he did not get a chance to talk to Bridgewater on Monday. Rookie right tackle T.J. Clemmings said Bridgewater appeared to be doing relatively well immediately after the win.
“He was being his regular self, giving everybody hugs, high-fiving and congratulating everybody,” Clemmings said. “So he’s good.”
Bridgewater appeared to get knocked out cold in the fourth quarter by an illegal hit by Rams cornerback Lamarcus Joyner. As Bridgewater slid down after a scramble for a first down, Joyner hit Bridgewater in the head with his left shoulder. Joyner was penalized for a personal foul and should soon be writing a check to the league.
After the game, left guard Brandon Fusco called the hit “cheap,” an assessment Zimmer agreed with. A day later, Zimmer was still irritated by the antics of the Rams, who also took down Bridgewater with a low and late hit by defensive end Williams Hayes that was not flagged.
Zimmer, who called out the Rams after an uncomfortably quick postgame handshake with St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher, made a point Monday to keep his opinions on the Rams to himself. But he left the impression that he shared them with the NFL.
“My conversations with the league I think we’ll keep between me and the league,” he said.
Backup quarterback Shaun Hill replaced Bridgewater after Joyner’s hit. He completed two of his six passes for just 15 yards. But the Vikings say they have confidence in the 14-year veteran if Bridgewater isn’t cleared before Sunday.
“Teddy going down, it hurts. It hurts a lot. He’s a big key in this offense, and hopefully he can come back on the field,” rookie receiver Stefon Diggs said. “But if not, I definitely have 100 percent confidence in Shaun.”
Bridgewater was one of several key contributors who were out of commission as the Vikings rallied to beat the Rams. Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and inside linebacker Eric Kendricks did not play due to injuries. Cornerback Terence Newman also suffered a concussion in the win. Kendricks’ replacement, Audie Cole, fractured his ankle.
But the Vikings, who have stocked their depth chart in recent years, kept on rolling.
“If you’re a backup, be ready to play when your number is called,” said Clemmings, who became a starter when Phil Loadholt was lost in the preseason. “That’s what it comes down to — guys stepping up and finding a way to win.”
Tom Johnson, a one-time journeyman who has thrived since coming to Minnesota in 2014, has played well in place of Floyd. Second-year linebacker Brandon Watts, who was on the practice squad two weeks ago, stepped in when Cole went down. And the Vikings have cornerback Trae Waynes, their top draft pick, coming off the bench.
That depth could come in handy again Sunday. Cole is out for the season, and Zimmer was noncommittal about Kendricks’ status for Sunday. Zimmer said outside linebacker Anthony Barr “should be fine” after getting X-rays on his left arm, but Barr was in a cast after the game. Floyd has yet to practice after undergoing minor knee surgery last month.
Newman did pass the first step in the concussion protocol, though.
But the biggest concern Sunday evening was the health of Bridgewater. And now it looks as if the Vikings won’t have to go for five wins in a row without their quarterback.