EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Minnesota Vikings probably lost Sam Bradford for another week or so, but they’re also on the verge of possibly getting Teddy Bridgewater, who is on reserve/physically unable to perform (PUP), back at practice as early as next week.
Those are the two main storylines on a 3-2 Vikings team that hopes to stay in the hunt with Case Keenum long enough to get the left knees of Bradford or Bridgewater back up and running.
Sensitive to the criticism they received for starting a clearly hobbled Bradford in Chicago on Monday night, the Vikings made head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman available for a rare press conference on Tuesday.
Sugarman said Bradford is dealing with “wear and tear” in the knee that underwent ACL reconstruction in 2013 and 2014. He said Bradford is day-to-day and will be reevaluated again on Wednesday.
Sugarman refuted the notion that the Vikings rushed Bradford back too soon. Bradford had missed three straight games and was limited in practice all last week. He was uncharacteristically inaccurate (5 for 11), unable to move and was sacked four times, including once for a safety, before the Vikings pulled him right before halftime of their 20-17 win.
“I do think it’s very important for me to mention that yesterday and always we were all on the same page with, ‘Should Sam play?’ or ‘Should Sam not play?'” Sugarman said. “The question is, how do we come up with that evaluation? Basically, it’s on a player’s exam and on a player’s function. And it’s a collaborative decision always. The player has a vote. The medical staff has a vote. The head coach, the coaching staff, the GM and together collaboratively we decide if a player is able to function and do his job or not.
“And I think it’s very important — I’ve known most of you now for over a decade — we would never put a player on the field that we thought could not protect himself. So I think that’s really important for me to mention. Sam at some point obviously aggravated his knee (on Monday).”
Meanwhile, Bridgewater is eligible to begin practicing next Monday. Sugarman said he’ll be evaluated by his surgeon next week to see if he’s ready to return. Bridgewater has been sidelined for 13 months since dislocating his left knee and tearing ligaments a week before the 2016 season. When he begins practicing, the Vikings will have three weeks to decide whether to add him to the active roster or keep him on PUP all year.
Head coach Mike Zimmer said he believes Bridgewater will play this season, but deferred comment to Sugarman.
“Teddy is working hard every day,” Sugarman said. “You guys see him all the time on the side working extremely hard, doing a great job. That’s the only thing I’m going to say about Teddy.”
Meanwhile, the Vikings feel better about their ability to tread water with Keenum as their backup. He entered Sunday’s game with the Vikings leading 3-2 near the end of the first half. He was careful with the ball while completing 17 of 21 passes with a touchdown in a turnover-free effort that saw the Vikings outscore the Bears 17-15 in the second half.
“Well, I think he’s won two games, so he showed he’s had some good stuff on tape,” Zimmer said of Keenum, who is 1-2 as a starter this year, but definitely gave the team a jolt in relief on Monday night. “I think the team believes when he comes in there he’s going to go in there and play well and that’s the most important thing.”
The Vikings trail the Packers (4-1) by a game heading into Sunday’s showdown at U.S. Bank Stadium. Keenum is the likely starter.
–Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph and many of his offensive teammates sparked a Twitter war with a touchdown celebration Monday night.
After Rudolph’s touchdown, he and teammates took advantage of the NFL’s relaxed celebration rules. The name of the children’s game they pretended to play depends on whether you’re from Minnesota or other parts of the country.
Teammates sat in a circle while Rudolph went around touching their helmets until one of them popped up and started chasing him.
Most of the country, it seems, would call this a game of “Duck, Duck, Goose!” But them’s fightin’ words in Minnesota, where kids are taught that the game is called, “Duck, Duck, Grey Duck!”
That’s their story. And they aren’t backing down.
–Sometimes, defensive end Everson Griffen is faster at the snap of the ball than the eye of an average NFL official can comprehend.
“I watch the ball and I’m really quick when I see it move,” he said after Monday’s 20-17 win over the Bears. “When I see it move, I’m gone.”
Griffen did that perfectly when the Vikings needed it most late in the first half. The offense had mustered only 29 yards in 28 minutes and trailed 2-0 when Griffen got a great jump, blew past left tackle Charles Leno Jr. and got a strip-sack that gave the Vikings the ball at the Chicago 13. That led to a field goal and a 3-2 lead.
“Everson has such great reaction time at the snap of the ball,” said left end Brian Robison. “A lot of times, the officials think he’s offsides when he’s not. That’s how quick and fast he is.”
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
–RB Stevan Ridley, who was signed early last week after Dalvin Cook went on injured reserve, was released on Monday. The Vikings will continue looking for running back depth this week.
–WR Michael Floyd, who was suspended for the first four games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, was activated on Monday. He had a holding penalty to negate a first-down catch by Adam Thielen. But he atoned for it a couple plays later with a nice 19-yard sideline grab for a first down.
–RB Jerick McKinnon had 197 all-purpose yards in one of the best games of his career. He had 95 yards rushing and a touchdown on 16 carries, 51 yards on six receptions and 51 yards on two kickoff returns. With Dalvin Cook out and Latavius Murray underachieving, McKinnon will have a key role the rest of the season, barring injury, of course.
–WR Stefon Diggs, who went into Week 5 as the NFL’s leader in receiving yards (391), was held to four yards on just one catch. He was targeted four times. Diggs suffered a groin injury at some point during the game. The Vikings will update his status on Wednesday.
–DE Everson Griffen notched his sixth sack of the season. And it came at a time when the offense had mustered only 29 yards in 28 minutes. Griffen stipped the ball from Mitchell Trubisky, giving the Vikings the ball at the Chicago 13. That led to a field goal and a 3-2 halftime lead.
–S Jayron Kearse didn’t play because of a groin injury suffered in practice last week. He was missed on special teams, where his replacement, cornerback Tramaine Brock, made several errors, including a holding penalty on a punt return.
–LG Nick Easton suffered a calf injury in Sunday’s game. It doesn’t appear to be serious. Head coach Mike Zimmer said the team will have an update when the injury report comes out Wednesday.
REPORT CARD VS. BEARS
–PASSING OFFENSE: C – Sam Bradford was awful because he was still injured and never should have started the game after missing three games because of a left knee injury. He was pulled in the closing minutes of the first half after completing just 5 of 11 passes for 36 yards. He looked totally defenseless on four sacks, one of which was a safety that came after he held the ball way too long. Case Keenum entered the game and was a boost. He completed 17 of 21 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown without a turnover. But most of Keenum’s passes were short and conservative.
–RUSHING OFFENSE: C-plus – The final tally looks good at 159 yards on 31 carries (5.1), but 69 of those came on two plays. One of them was a 58-yard touchdown by Jerick McKinnon. The other was a 22-yard scramble by Keenum. With Dalvin Cook out for the season, Latavius Murray got the start. And he continued to be unimpressive with 31 yards on 12 carries (2.6).
–PASS DEFENSE A – End Everson Griffen had a strip-sack that gave the Vikings the ball inside the Chicago 15-yard line late in the first half. That led to a field goal and a 3-2 lead. Safety Harrison Smith intercepted a pass in Bears territory in the closing minutes of the game. That handed the Vikings the game-winning field goal with 12 seconds left. Bears rookie QB Mitchell Trubisky completed only 12 of 25 passes for 128 yards in his starting debut.
–RUSH DEFENSE B – Unlike last year at Soldier Field, the Vikings contained the Bears’ running game. Jordan Howard, who had 153 yards against the Vikings at Soldier Field last year, was held to 76 on 19 carries (4.0). Not great, but considering he had 72 yards in his first two carries a year ago, this was a good game. Shifty little rookie Tarik Cohen was held to only 13 yards on six carries (2.2)
–SPECIAL TEAMS D – Give Kai Forbath some credit for having the calm nerves to nail a 26-yarder to win the game with 12 seconds left. As the Vikings found out with Blair Walsh in the playoffs two years ago, chip shots like this aren’t always gimmes under pressure. But the special teams made a massive gaffe when it allowed Bears punter Pat O’Donnell to perfectly execute a fake punt that turned into a 38-yard touchdown pass and closed Chicago’s deficit to 10-9. Punter Ryan Quigley also struggled with a 38.8-yard net on six punts.
–COACHING C – Give the Vikings credit for winning at Chicago for only the second time in the last 10 trips. But head coach Mike Zimmer shouldn’t have put Sam Bradford on the field. Bradford couldn’t move, couldn’t buy time, and couldn’t defend himself against Chicago’s pass rushers. It was obvious early on that Bradford’s left knee needed more time to heal. But it wasn’t until the closing minutes of the first half that Zimmer pulled Bradford. The Bears outsmarted and outschemed the Vikings on the 38-yard fake punt for a touchdown. They also were a step behind Chicago on a nifty double-reverse play that enabled Trubisky to take a pitch from the tight end and score a two-point conversion to tie the game at 17 early in the fourth quarter.
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