Zimmer says Bradford has won starting role

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn.--Mike Zimmer made sure there won't be a Vikings quarterback controversy anytime soon. In his season-ending news conference Tuesday, the head coach not surprisingly declared Sam Bradford his starter. Acquired from Philadelphia ...

Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph, left, celebrates his touchdown with quarterback Sam Bradford during the second quarter of a Jan. 1 game against the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Brace Hemmelgarn / USA TODAY Sports.

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn.-Mike Zimmer made sure there won't be a Vikings quarterback controversy anytime soon.

In his season-ending news conference Tuesday, the head coach not surprisingly declared Sam Bradford his starter. Acquired from Philadelphia after Teddy Bridgewater suffered a season-ending knee injury in the final preseason practice, Bradford set an NFL record with a completion percentage of 71.6.

"I think Sam has played great this year, No. 1," Zimmer said. "I think he's earned the right to be the starting quarterback, and right now all I'm worried about is Teddy getting better. ... Sam has done remarkable, the things he's done this year with all the things that he's had to do."

It remains to be seen when Bridgewater will recover after having surgery to repair a torn left ACL and a dislocated knee. Zimmer expects Bridgewater to play again but said he hasn't been given any sort of timetable.

"Teddy is a guy that will do everything possible to get back as soon as he can possibly get back,'' Zimmer said. "And he would be a guy that I would never bet against.''


Zimmer said the Vikings have studied other ACL injuries since Bridgewater was hurt Aug. 30 and "they're all different." Bridgewater is under contract for next season with a salary-cap number of $2.18 million, and Minnesota must decide by May 2 whether to pick up his 2018 option for about $12.5 million.

Bradford was acquired Sept. 3 from the Eagles for a first-round draft pick in 2017 and a fourth-round selection in 2018. During a disappointing 8-8 season, Bradford did what he could to deal with an injury-riddled offensive line, an anemic running game and Norv Turner resigning as offensive coordinator after seven games.

Turner was replaced on an interim basis by Pat Shurmur. Zimmer said Tuesday he was still evaluating whether Shurmur will have the job for 2017.

"I'm going to try to figure out things, step back a little bit, where I can kind of recharge my thinking of where we want to go, how we want to do things,'' Zimmer said. "Not just Pat, but everybody. I do think that Pat did a very, very good job, especially under the circumstances that he was put in. I think, offensively, we improved a lot in the passing game.''

The running game was another story as the Vikings were last in the NFL in yards per game at 75.3 and yards per carry at 3.2. But Adrian Peterson played in just three games, having suffered a torn right meniscus in Week 2 against Green Bay and then, after a Dec. 18 return against Indianapolis, missing the final two games with knee and groin injuries.

Peterson, 31, is under contract next season for a nonguaranteed $18 million, but it is highly unlikely he will play for that amount. He could return on a renegotiated deal. Zimmer didn't discuss money but said he wants Peterson back.

"Adrian's been a tremendous player here for the Vikings for 10 years,'' Zimmer said. "He's done some unbelievable things. ... I think he's still a good back, I think he's a really good back.''

Zimmer said he was able to get a feel for Peterson despite all the time he missed.


"There isn't a lot to look at, but I was able to see him every day in practice and things that he was able to do,'' Zimmer said. "I was able to evaluate.''

With Peterson out, running backs Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata struggled behind an injury-riddled offensive line. The five linemen to start the season ended up missing a combined total of 32 games, and Jake Long, a midseason replacement at left tackle, ended up missing the final seven.

"It's hard to build continuity, but honestly, I don't want to make excuses,'' Zimmer said of the offensive line. "Other teams have injuries.''

Against that backdrop, Bradford passed for a career-high 3,877 yards, with 20 touchdowns and just five interceptions. He broke Drew Brees' 2011 completion percentage record of 71.2.

Bradford's contract calls for him for make $17 million next season if not bought out in March for $4 million. Zimmer, though, made it all but certain Tuesday that he will be back in 2017.

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