For the Vikings, Friday is just another reminder of what could have been
By Adam Patrick
In their first preseason matchup of 2019, the Minnesota Vikings will be taking on former quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and the New Orleans Saints.
In his third year with the Minnesota Vikings, things were looking up for Teddy Bridgewater as he prepared for the 2016 season. Bridgewater was coming off a pair of impressive preseason performances and he appeared to be heading into a career-defining year.
Well, 2016 was career-defining for the young quarterback. But it wasn’t for anything he did during a game.
Before Bridgewater could even get out on the field for a regular season matchup in 2016, he suffered a brutal injury during a Vikings’ practice that almost resulted in him losing his left leg. His year with Minnesota was quickly over and his career in the NFL was put in jeopardy.
Despite the severity of his injury, Bridgewater never put aside his dreams of playing professional football for a living. He worked with trainers and the Vikings’ medical staff as much as he could and eventually his efforts led to a return to the field in 2017.
After watching his teammates pull off a miracle against the New Orleans Saints in the 2017 Divisional Round of the playoffs, Bridgewater became a free agent in 2018.
Still unsure about how his surgically repaired knee would hold up, Minnesota decided not to re-sign their former first-round draft pick. The Vikings moved on from Bridgewater and ended up signing Kirk Cousins to be the team’s new starting quarterback last year.
This is a decision that Minnesota shouldn’t be criticized for making. Bridgewater really wasn’t even expected to ever return to playing football after injuring his knee and the risk of the Vikings making him their starter in 2018 was still very high.
So now, the 26-year-old quarterback is a member of the Saints, who will be taking on Minnesota this Friday during the first week of the 2019 preseason. It will be the first game in which the Vikings will actually see Bridgewater take a snap against them since the two sides parted ways last year.
The former Minnesota quarterback says he’s looking forward to Friday’s game against his old team. Vikings players and coaches say they’re excited about this week’s meeting with their former signal-caller as well.
But for those who were on Minnesota’s roster when Bridgewater was with the team in 2016, it has to be incredibly hard not to wonder what could have been if he didn’t go down with his knee injury.
The Vikings were coming off an NFC North division title and a playoff appearance in 2015 with Bridgewater as their starting quarterback. With him back under center, Minnesota felt really good about their chance to have an even better season in 2016.
During his first full season as the Vikings’ starting quarterback, Bridgewater was by no means, the center of the team’s offensive scheme. He finished 2015 with 3,231 passing yards, 14 touchdowns, nine interceptions, three rushing touchdowns, and his first career Pro Bowl invite.
His time as Minnesota’s starter was about more than just stats though. The level of play on both sides of the ball for the Vikings seemed to elevate with Bridgewater starting under center.
So while Minnesota is happy to see their former quarterback continuing his career in the NFL, Friday’s meeting will still be bittersweet when he doesn’t take the field in purple and gold uniform.