If you can believe it, there were a few laughs had in Teddy Bridgewater’s hospital room.
Just hours after Vikings teammates circled an immobile Bridgewater on the practice field, a select group moved the huddle to the quarterback’s bedside. Adrian Peterson was one of six players to pay him a visit shortly after Bridgewater’s knee dislocated Tuesday during a routine practice drill.
Vikings trade with Eagles for quarterback Sam Bradford.
Disbelief and sadness subsided, if only for a moment, after Bridgewater was transported via a Hennepin County Medical Center ambulance and stabilized.
“The doc walked in, he was like, ‘You need any meds?’ And [Bridgewater] was like, ‘Now that all you guys walked in, I’m good now,’ ” Peterson said after the Vikings’ preseason finale Thursday night. “So he was still able to have a sense of humor and was in good spirits.
“That’s big. That’s big not only for me but other guys to see as well.”
It was a welcomed reprieve after devastation immediately fell upon those players closest to Bridgewater when he hit the turf. Linebacker Eric Kendricks ripped his helmet off and spiked it with both hands. Guard Alex Boone let go a guttural yell. Many more took to a knee in prayer.
Dodging self-pity was the immediate rallying cry from head coach Mike Zimmer, the Vikings’ weathered and inspirational leader. He’s been credited with a culture change since taking over in Minnesota nearly three years ago. So perhaps Zimmer’s anti-sulking message only reinforces what’s “in our DNA,” as safety Harrison Smith described.
Don’t quit is literally written on the walls of the team’s Winter Park training facilities, transported through signage about toughness and fourth quarters.
So they’re not punting on Super Bowl aspirations, even though 36-year-old Shaun Hill now sits atop the quarterback depth chart.
“That’s just how this team is built. It’s in our DNA,” Smith said. “No matter what happens, that’s still going to be our aspirations; period. Doesn’t matter what happens. Nobody else needs to think it besides us.”
Stubbornness is one way to view a hard-nosed approach instilled from Zimmer on down the roster. It’s certainly how the Vikings head coach raised eyebrows when earlier this month he surprisingly sat Bridgewater in the second preseason game, refusing to reveal a sore shoulder simply needed rest.
Now, there may be no better trait to push through the Vikings’ current situation. And so far through 18 wins and 15 losses, players have bought into Zimmer from his diverse defensive schemes to his motivational sayings.
“I think this team follows my lead pretty good. I’m going to lead them,” Zimmer said. “I’m going to make sure that they’re paying attention, doing things right.
“That’s why they hired me.”
The Vikings’ 27-25 victory over the Los Angeles Rams on Thursday left them with a 4-0 preseason record that is fairly meaningless, but they have talent. On defense alone, they’ll potentially field six former first-round picks and three players scribbled onto All-Pro ballots last season.
And, of course, on the other side is the NFL’s three-time rushing champion in Peterson, who rightfully could be one of the most frustrated with one playoff win and now 12 starting quarterbacks since the Vikings drafted him seventh overall in 2007.
Peterson knows what the Vikings lost. During a strong preseason, Bridgewater showed he was making strides toward a potentially breakout year.
“It was a feeling of disbelief,” Peterson said. “Teddy is such a good person, and to see the steps he’s made from the first year to last year. And being able to see how he became a smarter player, stronger arm. He was really going to be able to help us.”
The Vikings will finalize the initial 53-man roster, which won’t include Bridgewater, on Saturday. They’ve already notified some players of their impending release, including defensive linemen Travis Raciti and Denzell Perine, according to sources.
Those left will all need to fill in the gaps, according to tight end Kyle Rudolph.
“I think everyone’s role gets bigger,” Rudolph said. “Each and every one of us in this locker room has to do more. Nothing extraordinary, just do a little bit more. Do one thing right and one less thing wrong each and every day and we’ll pick up that slack that’s been lost by Teddy.”