Packers Expecting Bridgewater

The rookie quarterback threw for 317 yards in his first career start but injured an ankle during a convincing 41-28 victory over Atlanta. (Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY)

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The sprained left ankle for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is not considered serious, and the Minnesota Vikings are optimistic the rookie will play against Green Bay despite only three days to rest for Thursday night's game.

Coach Mike Zimmer said Bridgewater was feeling "a lot better" the day after the injury. He had an MRI test that showed no major damage.

"Hopeful," was Zimmer's answer Monday when asked if he believes Bridgewater will be able to face the rival Packers. Bridgewater was not present for the portion of practice that was open to reporters.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy expects Bridgewater to play.

“I thought he played well and watched the game on the coaches’ copy this morning and was told he feels pretty good,” McCarthy said. “The tests were negative. We’ll plan for Bridgewater.”

Bridgewater passed for 317 yards and a key 2-point conversion and rushed for 27 yards and a touchdown in his first NFL start, a 41-28 victory over Atlanta that could hardly have been better for the first-round draft pick from Louisville until his left foot rolled underneath him during a short run early in the fourth quarter.

He had X-rays, which were negative, and returned to the sideline without crutches by the end of the game. The perpetually upbeat Bridgewater acknowledged Sunday the decision on whether he'll play this week will be up to the coaching staff and athletic trainers, but he said he wasn't worried about his ankle as he rode off on the cart. Bridgewater said he probably could have come back in the game if it were necessary.

Christian Ponder, the starter for the majority of the previous three seasons, took over but did not attempt a pass.

Bridgewater has experience recovering from injury in a shortened week. He broke his left (non-throwing) wrist and sprained his right ankle during a game in 2012 against Connecticut, and the Cardinals had to play at Rutgers five days later. Bridgewater didn't start the game, but he came off the bench to throw two second-half touchdown passes to lead a Louisville rally for the win and the Big East Conference's bid in the Bowl Championship Series.

"He's the toughest quarterback in the nation," one of his teammate, Preston Brown, said after that game.

The Vikings, after raving over the last several months about Bridgewater's poise, athleticism and grasp of the game, will now have their first true assessment of that toughness. With Matt Cassel out for the season with a broken left foot, Ponder started the week as the only healthy quarterback on the active roster. McLeod Bethel-Thompson was signed to the practice squad last week, and Chandler Harnish was signed to the practice squad Monday.

Harnish played at Northern Illinois under coach Jerry Kill, now the coach at Minnesota.

The Falcons talked all week about needing to heed Bridgewater's ability to run with the ball, how that changes the entire dynamic of an offense, and he showed that on a few of his five carries.

"He's a special player," running back Jerick McKinnon said.

The Packers have struggled to stop the run, allowing a league-high average of 176 yards per game, and mobile quarterbacks like Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson have especially given them trouble in recent years. So the Vikings probably can't afford to be without one of their best assets against a Packers team that revived its offense Sunday in a 38-17 win at Chicago over the Bears.

The Vikings forced back-to-back punts in the fourth quarter Sunday while trailing 28-27, but for the game the Falcons converted 10 of 15 third downs. Over the last two weeks, the Vikings have allowed 19 of 28 third-down conversions. They're tied for the second worst in the NFL in that category.

"It's terrible. We've got a lot of work to do. I'm extremely disappointed in that. We'll put a lot more time and effort into it than what we have," Zimmer said.

NOTES: TE Kyle Rudolph's recovery from sports hernia surgery remains on track for less than two months, reinforcing the team's decision to avoid designating him as the one player who can be put on injured reserve with intent to return each season. Rudolph said he was dealing with the injury since the beginning of training camp and had the muscle tear fixed on both sides of his abdomen. "Just get it fixed now so in November, December, January, I'm playing at a high level," Rudolph said. ... LB Chad Greenway was not at practice after missing the game Sunday with a broken hand and a broken rib. Zimmer said he wasn't sure if he'd be ready in time to play Thursday.


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