Before Teddy Bridgewater, the last time the Vikings lost a long-term QB to a devastating knee injury after they had drafted him in the first round came in 2005 when Daunte Culpepper tore ligaments in his right knee in a game at Carolina, knocking him out for the season.
The Vikings lost that game to fall to 2-5. With Brad Johnson stepping in as a replacement, Minnesota managed to rally and finish the season 9-7. But combined with myriad offseason problems, it was not enough to save head coach Mike Tice’s job. He was fired, with the Wilfs — then new owners of the team — picking Brad Childress as a replacement.
Childress and Culpepper did not hit it off. Daunte ended up getting traded to Miami on March 15, 2006, before he was healthy. In a Star Tribune story published two weeks after the trade, Childress said Culpepper’s injury rehab, which occurred in Florida instead of at the Vikings’ facilities, played a role in the decision.
Per the Star Tribune story from late March, 2006:
Childress sent athletic trainer Eric Sugarman to visit Culpepperlast month, and the two met at a HealthSouth clinic near Orlando.According to Childress, the facility was small and its resourceswere vastly inferior to what the Vikings use at Winter Park. “You ask, ‘Where is he rehabbing?'” Childress said. “He’s rehabbing in a HealthSouth place in Orlando. … I’ve spent some time in this state. … I close my eyes. I’m seeing a Chinese restaurant, a HealthSouth place, a laundromat.Basically a strip mall that he’s rehabbing himself at. And I’m thinking, what did they have in there? They had a StepMaster and some other things. In other words, all the modalities we have in our training room, all the different things [he didn’t have]. … I just thought it would be better [to train in Minnesota].”
Childress continued: “I told him, ‘I think you’re doing yourself a disservice. You can do better for yourself than that. He said, ‘I’m good, that’s where I’m doing it.’”
The Vikings moved on, drafting Tarvaris Jackson in the second round in 2006. That didn’t work out. After two years of Brett Favre, they drafted Christian Ponder in the first round in 2011. That didn’t work out. By 2014, they turned to Bridgewater with the final pick in the first round of the draft.
And by now you obviously know about Bridgewater’s terrible injury 14.5 months ago and his return to the active roster. The description of his time away is, well, completely different. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur was the latest to talk about it Thursday — how Bridgewater stayed close to the team and did his rehab locally.
“He was into it in terms of his rehab. He's been into it in terms of knowing the schemes and the concepts we're trying to run each week,” Shurmur said. “He's into being a football player and it's sort of been normal to see him around and Teddy's an abnormal guy in a lot of ways. He's a very tough, competitive guy, and I'm sure at whatever point he's on the field he's going to be looking forward to it.”
This is not to say Bridgewater’s rehab was necessarily better than Culpepper’s or that Teddy will have more success coming back than Daunte — who went just 3-17 as a starter for three different teams after his injury.
From a team standpoint, though, there’s no doubt which was preferable.