Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman spoke to local reporters for nearly 31 minutes without saying anything to help the next eight opponents understand what the heck the Vikings will do at quarterback coming out of this week’s bye.
“All those decisions will be made coming up next week,” Spielman said Wednesday while discussing a 6-2 start that has the Vikings leading the NFC North by 1½ games.
Spielman spoke after the Vikings wrapped up this week’s practice schedule and scattered for the rest of the week. Even coach Mike Zimmer was spotted heading for his truck wearing some hunting gear that would make Bud Grant proud.
The team reconvenes Monday for a practice. That practice and possibly another one Wednesday will be used to further evaluate quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s left knee before Wednesday’s deadline for deciding whether to elevate him to the 53-man roster or keep him on the physically-unable-to-perform list for the remainder of this season.
Spielman said that he, Zimmer, the team’s medical staff and Bridgewater’s personal doctor will wait until Wednesday before making that call. If necessary, deciding when to start Bridgewater would come later and could come quickly, Spielman said.
Meanwhile, Spielman said multiple times that Sam Bradford is doing everything he can to return from a left knee injury that has wiped out all but six quarters of his season. Spielman stopped short of saying the team expects Bradford to return this season, saying only that it’s hopeful that he will be back at some point.
Then there’s Case Keenum, the guy who has played all but six quarters on a team that’s one game behind Philadelphia’s league-best record. What happens to him if Bridgewater, who hasn’t seen live action in 15 months, is deemed healthy enough to play and is activated next week?
“The decision on the quarterback,” said Spielman, “will come down to what Coach Zimmer and the staff feels gives us the best chance to win.”
That seems obvious, but what if the answer at this point in Bridgewater’s comeback is Keenum? With Keenum, Bridgewater and Bradford all in the final year of their contracts, don’t the Vikings need to see Bridgewater in a game this year to make a decision on him for next year?
“I figure we have plenty of time to figure that out,” Spielman said. “We’ve got a ways to go yet before we have to make those decisions.”
Spielman later sidestepped a question about the team’s understanding of the NFL rule that would toll the last year of Bridgewater’s contract to 2018 if he remains on PUP.
To me, the ideal situation is to activate Bridgewater, increase his first-team practice reps to 50 percent and put a short leash on Keenum as the Vikings head into a stretch of four tough road games in five weeks. This seems possible considering all the praise offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has gotten for creating a base system that is easily adjustable to the strengths of Bradford, Keenum and presumably Bridgewater.
Spielman called that a “great thing” to have and “a lot of the reasons why we’ve had success” this year. So I asked Spielman if Shurmur could prepare two quarterbacks as if they are starting. He indicated that’s doable.
“It’s not like all of a sudden we’re chucking out this scheme and we’re putting in a whole new scheme for another quarterback,” he said. “There’s enough flexibility I think within the system that he can make those adjustments pretty smoothly.”
The Vikings have won four in a row, which, I think, buys them time to accelerate Bridgewater’s timetable without starting him immediately and risking the momentum that Keenum, a beloved player in the locker room, helped create.
With the second-half schedule the Vikings are facing, there’s going to be a natural ebb that will suggest it’s time to start a further prepared Bridgewater. To me, that’s better than what it would do to the team and Bridgewater if he were rushed in at the pinnacle of good times, showed understandable rustiness and was blamed for extinguishing the flame.