Bridge­wa­ter sure of mak­ing re­turn

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS -

MANKATO, Minn. — Min­utes af­ter Teddy Bridge­wa­ter’s left knee dis­lo­cated be­neath him, the re­sult of one bad step on a rou­tine drop-back dur­ing prac­tice nearly a year ago, the Min­nesota Vik­ings quar­ter­back was hus­tled into an am­bu­lance.

Head ath­letic trainer Eric Sugarman went with him. Bridge­wa­ter’s promis­ing NFL ca­reer was hang­ing in the bal­ance. The fate of his leg was, too.

“I’m pretty sure both of us were pretty ner­vous about that con­ver­sa­tion,” Bridge­wa­ter said in his first me­dia ad­dress since the mas­sive in­jury shook the or­ga­ni­za­tion 331 days ago.

“I’m glad every­one re­acted in a timely man­ner and we were able to save my leg, if that’s what you want to call it.”

Thanks to the quick work by Sugarman and his staff and the paramedics on the scene at Vik­ings head­quar­ters that af­ter­noon, Bridge­wa­ter avoided nerve and ar­te­rial dam­age that could have forced an am­pu­ta­tion.

He still faced an ar­du­ous re­cov­ery from a torn ACL and other lig­a­ment dam­age that ended his third sea­son just 12 days be­fore it was to be­gin.

“Just a play-ac­tion pass. I can’t even re­mem­ber, it was so long ago, but I just re­mem­ber be­ing out there lay­ing on the ground,” Bridge­wa­ter said, as the Vik­ings held their first full-team prac­tice of train­ing camp.

“The big­gest thing I re­mem­ber was the guys sup­port­ing me. As I was out there on the ground, dif­fer­ent guys came up, hold­ing my hand, pray­ing for me. It just says a lot about the char­ac­ter of the guys we have around here. I’m thank­ful to be a part of this team.”

The ques­tion now, af­ter 11 months of re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion that Bridge­wa­ter said has in­cluded no set­backs, is when he’ll ac­tu­ally play in a game again.

He’s made so much progress, mostly logged through bread crumbs he’s left on so­cial me­dia and in­cre­men­tally af­firmed by pub­lic re­marks from Gen­eral Man­ager Rick Spiel­man, Coach Mike Zim­mer and ad­mir­ing team­mates, that the “if” part of that ques­tion has es­sen­tially been elim­i­nated.

“We don’t know when it’s go­ing to hap­pen,” Bridge­wa­ter said, “but for me, I know it’s go­ing to hap­pen.”

Flash­ing a wide smile of­ten dur­ing the in­ter­view ses­sion, Bridge­wa­ter cred­ited his “amaz­ing DNA” for the for­ti­tude to work his way back.

His mother is a breast can­cer sur­vivor. He also spoke of re­newed ap­pre­ci­a­tion for sim­ple skills such as walk­ing and dress­ing and in­creased mo­ti­va­tion for on-field suc­cess.

“You have your days where you don’t see the progress, but it’s a long process. I’m in it for the long haul, and I want to be the best ver­sion of Teddy that I can be,” he said.

“It’s a roller coaster that you go on, but for me, I’ve had so much sup­port that I’ve had more great days than I’ve had bad days.”

Bridge­wa­ter is on the phys­i­cally un­able to per­form list and will al­most cer­tainly start the sea­son there. With Sam Brad­ford in place as the starter and Case Keenum added as an ex­pe­ri­enced backup, there won’t be much rea­son for the Vik­ings to rush him back this year.

Even Bridge­wa­ter, af­ter speak­ing with Frank Gore and Willis McGa­hee about their re­cov­ery from sim­i­lar in­juries as NFL run­ning backs, sounded ac­cept­ing of the re­al­ity that he might not see the field un­til 2018.

“The com­mon theme is take your time,” Bridge­wa­ter said.

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