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Mike Zimmer praises Teddy Bridgewater's recovery from devastating knee injury

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Keenum likely to be Vikings' starting QB next year (1:43)

Adam Schefter, Ryan Clark and Louis Riddick debate whether the Vikings should use the franchise tag on Case Keenum over Sam Bradford or Teddy Bridgewater. (1:43)

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer says he would have liked to have seen Teddy Bridgewater on the field more during the 2017 season, but he praised the quarterback for what he called "an unbelievable achievement."

Speaking at his season-ending news conference Tuesday morning, Zimmer touched on the progress Bridgewater made in returning from the devastating knee injury he suffered two days before the end of the 2016 preseason. The quarterback dislocated his left knee and tore the ACL and other ligaments during a non-contact drill in practice.

It took Bridgewater just over 14 months of rehabilitation post-surgery to return to practice in early November 2017. From Weeks 10-17, Bridgewater was the backup to Case Keenum, but the only in-game action he saw came in the fourth quarter of a blowout win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

Zimmer discussed the research the Vikings did after Bridgewater got hurt and the rarity of the quarterback's well-ahead-of-schedule return.

"There was 24 of these similar types of injuries through all sports," Zimmer said. "Half of them never came back, and I think the earliest one that anybody ever came back was 24 months. So, for him to even get to that point where he was and be able to come out and practice and compete in a game was a true credit to him."

The two-year recovery timetable may foreshadow how the Vikings felt about where Bridgewater was at physically when they chose to deactivate him for their two playoff games against the Saints and Eagles and make Sam Bradford the No. 2 quarterback. Bridgewater was roughly 10 months ahead of schedule when he returned to practice.

"I think he's doing good now," Zimmer said. "He's at the point where he can play. You just have to work through figuring out where he's at in that because obviously we didn't get to see him through games."

Zimmer said he spoke with Bradford during exit interview on Monday and believes the quarterback may be past the knee issues that caused him to miss all but 1.5 games this season.

"He feels like he is so we'll just have to see how he continues to improve."

Minnesota is in a unique position having just played in the NFC Championship and now facing a lot of uncertainty at the quarterback position. As they enter the offseason, the Vikings have a handful of important decisions to make regarding free agency, none more critical than who will be the franchise's starting quarterback in 2018

All three of the Vikings starting QBs -- Bridgewater, Bradford and Keenum -- are pending free agents in March.

Zimmer said he was not prepared to comment on where the team is at and does not have a clear idea yet for how he would like the quarterback situation to look going into next season.

"Have I thought about it? Yeah," Zimmer said. "But quite honestly up until about 3 a.m. yesterday or whatever time it was the game got over the other night, my whole focus has been on the now, not so much the future and (general manager) Rick Spielman and I had talked about that earlier. We said let's just go through the season, let's figure it out after the season, we'll go through that process and go from there and see how that goes. We're just going to work through it."