When Case Keenum sat down at his locker, Teddy Bridgewater flashed a smile and said he was talking trash about his fellow Vikings quarterback.
Bridgewater had nothing but glowing reviews of Keenum, who has led Minnesota on a five-game winning streak to sit atop the NFC North at 7-2. But now that Bridgewater is healthy and active 14½ months after a career-threatening knee injury, coach Mike Zimmer has a decision to make at the QB position.
He’s not ready to reveal anything just yet.
“I’ve got a plan, and we’ll just see how it goes,” Zimmer said. “Sometimes plans change but we’ll see how it goes. We’ll sit down this week and we’ll visit about it and kind of go from there.”
With the high-scoring Los Angeles Rams up next, the Vikings could stick with the status quo after Keenum threw touchdown passes to four different receivers in a 38-30 victory Sunday over the Washington Redskins. Bridgewater said a silent prayer to himself, let out a scream and cried during the national anthem in his first game in uniform since Jan. 10, 2016. Then he watched Keenum put on a solid performance with the four scores and two interceptions.
“He’s awesome,” Bridgewater said. “He’s the ultimate competitor, he fights hard. He has great energy. It’s what you want in a quarterback.”
An emotional Bridgewater was shown pregame wiping away tears on the bench. Being back on the sideline with his teammates and coaches was something he had wished for since he went down with a devastating knee injury in August 2016.
“It was definitely tears of joy, thinking about everything that I’ve had to overcome in these past couple months,” Bridgewater said.
The normalcy he sought presented itself in the form of being able to put on his pads and jersey, lace up his cleats and Velcro the straps of his gloves. After having the game taken away from him for so long, those little moments are things he doesn’t take for granted.
“Just running out of that locker room, being able to stand next to those guys on the sideline for the National Anthem, it just all boiled up,” he said. “I kind of screamed on the sideline after I said my prayer in the end zone. Then when I got on the sideline, I was like, ‘Man, this is really about to happen.'”
If the Vikings were losing, the clouds of a quarterback controversy could hang over them. But there doesn’t seem to be any animosity between Keenum and Bridgewater.
“I’m a big fan of Teddy Bridgewater,” Keenum said. “I may have a Teddy Bridgewater jersey at home. He’s a great dude, great teammate.”
Wide receiver Adam Thielen heaped all sorts of praise on Keenum, who replaced injured veteran Sam Bradford as Minnesota’s starter and has thrived after a rough start. Thielen also thinks it’s a huge positive to have Bridgewater back, especially after the 25-year-old came back from a complete tear of the ACL in his left knee in August 2016.
“I knew if there was one person that was going to do it, it was going to be Teddy,” Thielen said. “It’s fun to see him just prepare. The way that he practices, he gets a lot of reps. It’s just fun to have him out there because he loves it.”
Bridgewater won’t let himself think about his next first just yet. Getting in a game will be another milestone to check off in his recovery, and while his goal is to play this season, his focus right now is on appreciating the present and how far he has come.
“It’s very important, but at the same time, I think I just have to approach each day with the mindset that I’m going to get better, whether it’s being a better teammate, getting better with my health, studying the game and things like that,” he said. “I have the mindset that if I play, I play. I’m going to give it my all. I won’t hold anything back. But right now, I’m cherishing this moment. It’s about the Vikings winning in Washington against a good team.”