Two quarterbacks that have been named starters to the same team at one point enter camp with only one season on both of their contracts.
While Sam Bradford has been named the starter, both head coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman have said that Teddy Bridgewater has come along nicely from his knee surgery. While everyone has been asking, from linemen, to wide receivers, to Bradford, say there is no distraction from the Bridgewater return, both quarterbacks seem to be fighting for who gets the next contract.
“There really hasn’t been anything that’s changed since we talked about it in the spring,” said Bradford on questions about a contract extension. “That’s really not my focus right now. My focus is to come in here and get better and get ready for the season and if something changes then obviously I’ll look at it but at this time, it’s really not even on my radar.”
What also does not help is that the last season Bridgewater played was eerily similar to Bradford’s 2016 season. In 2015, Bridgewater threw for 3,231 yards and 14 touchdowns against nine interceptions and five fumbles, with a 65 percent completion percentage. Then Bradford came in the following year in week two with no experience on the Vikings roster and threw for 3,877 yards, and had a 71 percent completion rate, against five interceptions and nine fumbles. The one leg up is that Bridgewater can make plays with his legs, rushing for 192 yards and three touchdowns.
While the future seemed doubtful for Bridgewater, he is slowly progressing and if he can return and look healthy in preseason games with men falling around his knees, there must be room to get back on the roster because of no deal made as of yet between Bradford and the Vikings. This makes for a truly winner-take-all quarterback camp battle, with Bridgewater having to be perfect in his comeback and Bradford getting an actual offseason to gel with the offense.
“It’s exciting, this is the first time I’ve been on a team were we go away for training camp. Every other team we’ve done it at the facilities, so it’s a little bit different coming in here and walking into a dorm room for the first time since college,” said Bradford of the offseason.
“I think we all know that we’ve got a ton of work ahead of us. I think we had a good spring and it’s time to build on that. Communication is a key part of these next couple weeks, making sure we’re all speaking the same language and making sure we are all seeing the same things the same way and we’re all on the same page.”
The benefits of working with offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur for the entirety of a season and offseason also favors Bradford, who now will be in an offense that will become more tailored to him and his strengths. Yet every day he continues without a contract extension, the narrow hall of opportunity for Bridgewater remains open.
“It kind of goes back to what I was talking about, making sure that when Pat [Shurmur] puts things in and installs things in meetings that we are able to take it out and apply it on the field,” said Bradford. “Going through the spring, we were trying to find new things, things that we could add to our playbook, things that maybe we didn’t have last year. What we felt like we did well last year and over the next few weeks find out what we’re going to do and find our identity.”
As far as the season in front of the team, the expectations that were once so high for the promising squad were not even close to being met as the team finished 8-8 after a 5-0 start. They missed the playoffs and it left the Vikings looking for answers to a lot of position group problems. This year, the quarterbacks were not immune to the sense of urgency to get back to the organization’s playoff ways.
“I went through this my last year at Philadelphia, and still try to approach it the same way as any other season,” said Bradford. “In this league you come in and have to prove yourself day in and day out and prove your worth, and like I said my goal rightness is to come in each day and get better and be a good teammate and a good leader.”
Bridgewater, on the other hand, focused on continued recovery from his injury, detailing it in his first talk with the media since August 28 of last year.
“The biggest thing I remember was the guys supporting me as I was laying on the ground, praying for me and holding my hand, and it speaks to the character of the guys we have on this team,” said Bridgewater. “It made me a better person, it made me very appreciative of everything I have in life and very aware that you can lose something you love in the blink of an eye.”
Bridgewater declined to talk about the quarterback situation, continually saying he was “focused on getting better and rehabbing”, while also declining any questions on the status of his knee, simply saying it was “better than before”. While the season is pivotal for the entire Vikings team as far as a bounce back year, it is even more so for the pair of quarterbacks, who are fighting for the next contract.