Bridgewater says dream is still alive and he's ready, realistic
MINNEAPOLIS—On Sunday, Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will put on a uniform and trot out for a game for the first time in 15 months.
He can't wait.
"Coming out of that locker room and getting that rush and that adrenaline going through my blood and my body, it's a great feeling," Bridgewater said of facing the Washington Redskins at FedExField in Landover, Md.
Bridgewater, who hasn't played since suffering a torn left ACL and dislocated knee in August 2016, was activated Wednesday off the physically unable to perform list. On Thursday, he spoke about what it means to be back on the Vikings' 53-man roster.
"It's been a long journey, so to be able to get back out there with the guys and know that I'm going to be dressing this week, I'm just excited," Bridgewater said. "Now I can focus on football. The hard part is out of the way.
"I never had any doubt (about returning), and that's a credit to the people around me. ... There are a bunch of people who counted me out, outside this building. ... There was a time where the dream may have ended or died, but the dream is still alive."
The last time Bridgewater saw game action was Aug. 28, 2016, in an exhibition against the San Diego Chargers. Two days later, he suffered his gruesome injury when he went down without contact in the final preseason practice.
Bridgewater will back up Case Keenum on Sunday, and there's no certainty he will play against the Redskins. Even if fans might be clamoring for Bridgewater to regain his starting job as soon as possible, he is remaining patient.
"I'm just going to take it one day at a time," Bridgewater said. "Right now, we're playing some good football (at 6-2), and me coming back, I just want to be the best teammate I can be. ... Case is the guy (Sunday), so I'm going to stand behind Case and root these guys on."
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer has made it clear, though, that Bridgewater will get an opportunity to compete for his old job. Zimmer likes just about everything he's seen from the quarterback since he returned to practice Oct. 18.
"He's quick-footed getting back (to pass), getting away from the center, ball coming out quick," Zimmer said after Thursday's practice. "It's got good zip on it."
Zimmer says Bridgewater's biggest issue in his comeback will be his ability to elude pass rushers. Although there's no tackling in practices, the Vikings have been sending defenders at Bridgewater with regularity, and the fourth-year quarterback has no concerns about his mobility.
"I have a ton of confidence," Bridgewater said. "Throughout this entire process, we did drills and simulated different movements that were preparing me for game-like situations. I know it's not the actual game, but I've had some great work throughout this entire process, and I'm very comfortable and confident."
Bridgewater also has used a headset for virtual reality work that helps simulate game action.
When Bridgewater last played, Norv Turner was the offensive coordinator. Pat Shurmur took over that role last November when Turner resigned and this season installed a different system.
"It won't appear different to (Bridgewater) because he's been involved in what we've been doing behind the scenes," Shurmur said.
Bridgewater said he has "no concerns at all" about playing in a game. He said he has overcome all mental hurdles in his comeback, although he doesn't deny it often was tough not being able to play.
"It's like when all the kids are going to P.E. and you have to go to detention or something like that," Bridgewater said.
In the first months after Bridgewater's injury, when he couldn't do much physically, he had one task he could focus on. He said he received about 800 text messages from well-well wishers following his injury.
"It took me like three months to respond to all the text messages, but I made it my business to respond to every single text message,'' Bridgewater said.
Whatever Bridgewater did since his injury, Zimmer said it was done with a smile.
"He's like the anti-me," Zimmer said with the laugh. "He's smiling all the time. He's always joking around with the guys. He just has a great personality."
It's no wonder Vikings receiver Laquon Treadwell called Bridgewater the "people's champ" earlier this season.
"It's just good to have him back, that presence and that charisma he carries himself with," Treadwell said.