Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford is dealing with “wear and tear in his knee joint,” head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman said on Tuesday, but a magnetic resonance imaging exam of the quarterback’s knee showed no new injury after Bradford’s abbreviated return to the field Monday night against the Chicago Bears.

Bradford completed only five of his 11 passes for 36 yards, getting sacked four times (including once for a safety) before Case Keenum relieved him in the Vikings’ 20-17 victory in Chicago. Bradford’s performance raised questions about whether he was healthy enough to return from a three-week absence, but Sugarman said Vikings staff members were “on the same page” about whether Bradford should play.

“I do think it’s very important for me to mention that [Monday] and always we were all on the same page with, ‘Should Sam play?’ or ‘Should Sam not play?’ ” Sugarman said. “The question is, how do we come up with that evaluation? Basically, it’s on a player’s exam and on a player’s function. And it’s a collaborative decision always. The player has a vote. The medical staff has a vote. The head coach, the coaching staff, the GM and together collaboratively we decide if a player is able to function and do his job or not.

Shari L. Gross
VideoVideo (01:37): Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said he will no longer evaluate player performance in the media.

“And I think it’s very important — I’ve known most of you now for over a decade — we would never put a player on the field that we thought could not protect himself. So I think that’s really important for me to mention. Sam at some point obviously aggravated his knee [on Monday].”

Sugarman was talking with Bradford after each series and said the Vikings pulled him out of the game as soon as they felt he could not protect himself.

“It’s my job to watch the injured players,” Sugarman said. “He felt like he was able to continue to play. When we got to the point where we didn’t feel like he could protect himself, we took him out of the game.”

Asked if the Vikings would have pulled Bradford earlier in the game had they been concerned with his ability to protect himself at that point, Sugarman said, “I think we would have, yeah.”

Sugarman would not discuss a timetable for Bradford’s return, referring that question to coach Mike Zimmer, but said Bradford’s issues are “absolutely” something from which he could fully recover.

“These injuries are very difficult to manage and treat,” Sugarman said. “You’re going to ask when Sam’s going to be back. One day at a time, really. Like all players, we’re going to look at Sam [Wednesday] and evaluate him.”

When asked about the chance of Bradford playing on Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, Zimmer referred the question back to what Sugarman said about re-evaluating Bradford.

Bradford had surgery to repair the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in 2013 and ’14, and Sugarman connected the quarterback’s current issues to his previous injuries. He said the quarterback got his knee in an awkward position on one play in the Vikings’ season opener against the New Orleans Saints, but did not sustain a bruise as a result of a direct hit.

“I don’t know if it was a misstep,” Sugarman said. “He showed me the play, I can’t regurgitate it to you, but he got his knee in a funny angle and aggravated the knee joint and that’s where it all started.”

When asked if Bradford could be at risk of arthritis in his knee in the future, Sugarman said, “I think anyone who’s had two ACL [surgeries] is probably at risk for that.”

Sugarman said the brace on Bradford’s knee Monday night was an “unloader brace,” which is designed to alleviate stress on the injured part of the knee joint.

While Bradford’s status remains in doubt, the Vikings could soon see the return of the man whose injury necessitated their trade for Bradford a year ago.

Quarterback Teddy Bridge­water will be evaluated by his surgeon Monday to see if he is ready to return from the dislocated left knee and torn ligaments that have kept him out for more than 13 months, Sugarman said. Should the Vikings clear Bridgewater to practice two days later, they would have three weeks to decide whether to add him to the active roster or keep him on the physically-unable-to-perform list.