Teddy Bridgewater worked about 14½ months to get to this point. Three months, he figures, were partly spent responding to the 800-plus messages he received after the devastating knee injury.
“I made it my business to respond to every text message,” Bridgewater said Thursday, three days before he’ll suit up Sunday in Washington for the first time since August 2016.
There’s no educated guess for how long it would take Bridgewater to respond to messages he’ll receive if he makes a successful return to an NFL field. As the Vikings backup quarterback Sunday, Bridgewater will be one play away from that reality — and from achieving his latest dream so long in the making.
“Once I get out there between those lines, I have no regrets, no doubt,” Bridgewater said. “I’m just out there living my dream. There was a time where the dream may have ended or died, but the dream is still alive.”
The Vikings are waiting until “everybody is comfortable” before starting Bridgewater, according to coach Mike Zimmer, who pointed out Bridgewater has not had the benefit of an offseason, training camp or even a preseason game to establish his knowledge and rhythm in Pat Shurmur’s offense.
But Bridgewater has “no concerns at all,” he said, despite working to still improve his mobility with a brace supporting his surgically repaired left knee.
“Our training staff, our strength and conditioning staff has done a great job preparing me to get to this point,” Bridgewater said. “So once I get out there, it’s no regrets. No holding back. Whatever is meant to happen, happens. I trust God’s plan for me. I’m going to go with that.”
Teammates need to get comfortable with Bridgewater, too. Defenders and receivers alike have noted a stronger throwing arm from Bridgewater, who said he’s got more “zip” on the ball than a year ago. And Vikings rookie center Pat Elflein is adjusting to his cadence and hard count that can carry a certain bite.
But the bigger question lies inside Bridgewater’s knee, which has yet to take a hit in a game. Bridgewater, who turns 25 years old Friday, believes he’s “over” the mental hurdles of the injury. He says he doesn’t think about the spot on the field, where he was injured, while practicing in the same area. He says he doesn’t think about the play-action assignment he carried out just as his knee buckled. Peace of mind, Bridgewater says, is the first goal he’s achieved.
“Ton of confidence,” Bridgewater said. “Throughout the entire process we did drills and simulated movements that would prepare me for gamelike situations. I know it’s not the actual game, but I had some great work throughout this entire process and I’m very comfortable and confident.”