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Zulgad: When will Bridgewater return? The reality is no one knows the answer

By Judd Zulgad

The news that Teddy Bridgewater is likely to miss the entire 2017 season caused a stir Friday morning with several outlets picking up the report from Jason Cole of Bleacher Report.

Cole, citing Vikings sources, said that doctors had informed the team that the shortest recovery time for the type of knee injury Bridgewater suffered was 19 months and, based on that timeline, the quarterback won’t be recovered until March 2018 at the earliest.

The Star Tribune responded with a sourced report that Bridgewater is continuing to rehab and that there was no set timetable on his return from the injury he suffered to his left knee 10 days before the 2016 regular-season opener.

The injury resulted in Vikings general manager Rick Spielman shipping a 2017 first-round pick and a 2018 fourth-round selection to the Philadelphia Eagles for veteran Sam Bradford.

While the Star Tribune’s report would appear to be a bit more on the optimistic side, the reality is that both Bleacher Report and the newspaper are correct.

That’s because the Vikings almost certainlty have no idea when they will see Bridgewater take another snap. You also have to allow for the chance that the Vikings’ second first-round pick of the 2014 draft will never play in the NFL again.

That’s an extremely pessimistic outlook but given the nature of the injury suffered by Bridgewater it’s also potentially realistic. Bridgewater crumbled to the turf at Winter Park during a non-contact drill on Aug. 30 and eventually was transported to the hospital in an ambulance.

The Vikings issued a statement that night that Bridgewater had suffered a knee dislocation, a complete tear of his ACL and other structural damage. Bridgewater underwent surgery on Sept. 9 in Dallas after which it was revealed he had undergone a multi-ligament reconstruction.

Nearly five months later, that remains all we know. Bridgewater did not talk during the season and the Vikings provided no further information about how many ligaments were torn in Bridgewater’s knee.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer called it a “terrible injury” during a recent appearance on ESPN and acknowledged, “we don’t know when he’ll be back.”

Zimmer is never going to say he doesn’t know if Bridgewater will play again, but it was interesting that in his postseason press conference Zimmer made it clear that Bradford would be his starting quarterback to open 2017. Zimmer also talked about Bridgewater in terms of simply wanting to see him get better.

If anyone is driving the Bridgewater Bandwagon it would be Zimmer — the coach has made no attempt to hide how much he respects the former Louisville QB — and yet Zimmer was the one saying that this was Bradford’s show.

There already are signs of which way this situation might be trending and there will be a few important things to keep track of this offseason.

Two of Bridgewater’s biggest advocates in Winter Park were offensive coordinator Norv Turner and his son, Scott, who served as the team’s quarterbacks coach.

When Bridgewater had a subpar Pro Day, Norv Turner was one of those who went to bat for him. Turner and the Vikings brass then went to Florida to put Bridgewater through a workout and came away impressed. That performance was a big reason why Spielman pulled off a draft-night trade with Seattle to grab Bridgewater with the final pick of the first round.

But the support system that came from having Norv and Scott Turner on the coaching staff is gone. Norv abruptly resigned after the Vikings suffered a second consecutive loss in early November to fall to 5-2 during a season in which they would finish 8-8. Scott was fired following the season.

Pat Shurmur, who served as Bradford’s offensive coordinator for his rookie season with the Rams and again in 2015 with the Eagles, is now the Vikings’ offensive coordinator. He also played an instrumental role in helping Spielman decide to trade for Bradford, even though he held the title of tight ends coach at that time.

The Vikings will be forced to tip their hand a bit more in the coming months when it comes to Bridgewater’s situation. Bridgewater is due to make $2.18 million in 2017 and the team will have to make a decision on his fifth-year option this May.

Ben Goessling of ESPN recently reported that it seems likely the Vikings will exercise the option, even though it will be for more than $11 million. This will give Minnesota more time to see how Bridgewater is progressing.

But even with the NFL salary cap continuing to increase that’s a significant investment, especially since Bradford will be entering the final season of his contract in 2017 and is scheduled to make a base salary of $14 million with a cap hit of $18 million.

It’s likely that Bradford’s representatives soon will be in touch with Spielman to ask about a lucrative multiyear extension. If Bradford gets what he likely will be seeking, it will serve as a clear indication that the Vikings have decided he is their future at quarterback. If the Vikings balk and have Bradford play on the final season of his deal, that could mean there is hope that Bridgewater will return.

It will take months for all of this to play out and there will be plenty of time to guess about the direction in which things are headed. But right now, the only thing we know is nothing is certain when it comes to Bridgewater’s future in purple.

The post Zulgad: When will Bridgewater return? The reality is no one knows the answer appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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