EAGAN — One year ago many Minnesota Vikings players made an appointment to be in front of their televisions. Their former quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was set to play for the New York Jets and play significant snaps for the first time since suffering a horrific knee injury in late August 2016.
It wasn’t long before Bridgewater’s strong preseason performance for the Jets caught the eye of New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, who was on the lookout for a backup quarterback for Drew Brees.
Payton called a former colleague, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, in search of a recommendation.
“I told him what I think of [Bridgewater],” Zimmer said following Wednesday’s practice. “When we played him last year, he told me how much he likes Teddy and he said he thinks he’s got the future quarterback in the building.”
After starting just one game — a Week 17 matchup against Carolina with no playoff implications — the Saints won a bidding war with the Miami Dolphins to bring Bridgewater back to New Orleans. They made him the highest paid backup in the league.
Now with Brees likely entering his final year in the NFL, it appears Bridgewater will wait one more year and then get an opportunity to pick up where he left off before the injury.
On Friday night, Zimmer will face off in preseason action against his former quarterback.
“I’m so happy for him,” Zimmer said. “He texted me the day after the Super Bowl this year. I wish him all the best in the world. I want to hit him like any other quarterback, but I don’t want to hurt him. He’s a great kid. I’m proud of him that he’s been able to overcome that injury and I’ve heard that he’s been doing pretty good down there, so I’m proud of him to overcome that injury because when we got the statistics back when his knee got hurt, it was not really a very positive outlook for him to make it back.”
The Vikings could have rolled the dice on bringing Bridgewater back in 2018. He spent 2017 as Case Keenum’s backup and appeared in one game. But with a team that had just appeared in the NFC title game, the Vikings elected to sign Kirk Cousins.
Zimmer has never tried to hide his affinity for Bridgewater. The sixth-year head coach once said he never wanted any other quarterback. This week he explained why Bridgewater had such an impact on him.
“I just think his personality,” Zimmer said with emotion in his voice. “I’ll tell you a story. When my dad died, his mom called me. I was driving in the car. She called to give her condolences. It’s hard to say thank you and all that. So I said, ‘I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate Teddy.’ She stops me and says coach, I didn’t call you to talk about Teddy. I just wanted to [send condolences]. So that’s the upbringing that he’s had. I think that kind of carries over into every part of his life.”
While the statistics may have pointed to Bridgewater’s return to football as unlikely, Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski did not appear surprised that he’s seeing the former Minnesota first-round pick in action again.
“Those of us who know that kid, you wouldn’t doubt anything that he does,” Stefanski said. “Really looking forward to seeing him. I think he has a bunch of fans in this building, so we will see him in pregame and say hello and then get to work.”