Two days after completely tearing his anterior cruciate ligament and suffering other structural damage in his knee, Bridgewater showed up at the team’s practice facility in advance of their Thursday night preseason finale. On Monday, he was back there once again.
“It’s always good to see him. Anytime you see him around, whether it’s in the training room or the locker room, that’s been my advice to him: Be around as much as possible,” tight end Kyle Rudolph said. “It’s hard when you’re injured and it really feels like you’re not part of the team. It’s great to see him up. It’s great to see him about, and we’re always praying for him and wishing him the best on his recovery.”
Bridgewater is expected to have a long road back, with a best-case scenario seeing him ready for the 2017 season. But despite his big expectations prior to this season wiped out with his injury, he has continued to have a smile on his face around teammates.
“He’s a real religious guy. His mindset is really good right now,” left tackle Matt Kalil said Monday after seeing Bridgewater. “He’s focused on just getting back and getting better and coming back.”
Teammates and coaches are doing their best to support Bridgewater, even while preparing to face the 2016 season without him on the field.
“He’s here every day down in the training room. Same kid he always is. Always a smile on his face,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “Xavier Rhodes, he always comes in and ties (Bridgewater’s) shoes. He can’t reach his shoes, so Xav does it. I was down there today and I tied it for him. I’m the shoe-tier now.”
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In the span of a week, the Vikings have had to quickly pivot. Since last Tuesday’s devastating scene, when teammates witnessed Bridgewater’s dislocated knee after suffering the non-contact injury, teammates have had a wide range of emotions.
“I think as an offense, a lot of disappointment early last week when Teddy goes down, but then you rally around one another,” Rudolph said.
Zimmer was the one leading that charge to recharge after Bridgewater’s injury, but even Zimmer was emotional and reflective after the injury, citing lessons he learned about rebounding after the death of his wife seven years ago and the death of his father last training camp.
“I felt extremely bad for Teddy, obviously. I never thought I would have another quarterback throughout my career other than him,” Zimmer said on Monday. “You go through those things and you get over it and you go on. We’ll try to do the best we can to figure out a way to win.”
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Having Bridgewater’s presence around the locker room will certainly help lighten the mood and remind teammates to keep smiling.
Even Bridgewater’s replacement, Sam Bradford, acquired in a trade on Saturday, is hoping Bridgewater remains a presence around the locker room.
“I asked him if he could please be there as much as possible to help me out,” Bradford said Monday. “I would really appreciate that.”