Coach Mike Zimmer said in his season-ending press conference that Bradford "has earned the right to be the starting quarterback" after a year during which he set a NFL single-season record with a 71.6 completion percentage. Bradford, who came to Minnesota in a trade Sept. 3 with the Philadelphia Eagles after Bridgewater dislocated his left knee and tore his ACL on Aug. 30, threw for a career-high 3,877 yards and passed for 20 touchdowns against five interceptions.
"I think Sam has played great this year," Zimmer said. "Right now all I'm worried about is Teddy getting better. He comes in here every single day, busts his rear end and I just want him to get better right now and so we'll worry about those things later. But Sam has done remarkable things this year, with all the things that he's had to do."
Bradford is signed through the 2017 season, and general manager Rick Spielman said before the season that the quarterback's contract was part of the reason the Vikings were willing to trade a first-round pick and a 2018 fourth-rounder to the Philadelphia Eagles for Bradford. He will have a $18 million cap hit next year, with $4 million coming in a roster bonus due in March, and the Vikings will eventually have to decide whether to sign Bradford to a long-term contract.
Bridgewater has not talked to reporters since his injury, and declined interview requests during the Vikings' final open locker room session of the season on Monday. The Vikings said on Sept. 9 that Bridgewater had a multi-ligament reconstruction of his left knee, but have not disclosed which ligaments Bridgewater needed repaired other than his ACL. When asked about it on Tuesday, Zimmer said, "I don't know all the medical terms -- the [capsule joint.] You'd have to ask [head athletic trainer] Eric [Sugarman]."
The coach said the Vikings had studied recovery timetables for similar injuries, but found it difficult to establish a precedent because of the complications associated with a knee dislocation.
"Some are with nerve damage, some are without nerve damage. There's just so many variables with this particular injury," Zimmer said. "I do know this: Teddy is a guy that will do everything possible to get back as soon as he can possibly get back. And he would be a guy that I would never bet against."
The Vikings will also have to determine the future of running back Adrian Peterson, who has a team option for 2017 that includes a $6 million roster bonus, Zimmer said he thinks the 31-year-old is "still a good back." Peterson only gained 72 yards on 37 carries this season, missing 13 games after tearing his right meniscus on Sept. 18, but Zimmer said he had enough practice film to evaluate Peterson's season. Asked if he wanted Peterson back in 2017, Zimmer said, "Adrian's been a tremendous player here for the Vikings for 10 years. He's done some unbelievable things and he's under contract, so, yes."