In the aftermath of the Vikings’ 26-9 loss at Pittsburgh on Sunday, Mike Zimmer was asked what had him the most upset or angry. “I’m not angry or upset,” he told reporters. “I’m just tired of these questions about Sam. Sam’s fine.”
I’ve got bad news for the Vikings coach.
First, the questions are only starting when it comes to Sam Bradford’s health, and second, his starting quarterback appears to be anything but fine after being unable to play Sunday because of reported swelling and cartilage issues in his twice-surgically repaired left knee.
Ultimately fielding questions from curious reporters might be the least of Zimmer’s worries.
That became obvious late in Sunday’s game, when Fox aired footage of Bradford attempting to see how much work he could do hours before Sunday’s kickoff. The 29-year-old Bradford moved as if he was 40 years older than his listed age.
That was why he couldn’t play against the Steelers – his replacement, Case Keenum, went 20 of 37 for 167 yards with a 65.9 passer rating – and why it’s not certain if Bradford will be able to go next Sunday against Tampa Bay at U.S. Bank Stadium.
“He might play one game from now, he might play six weeks from now,” Zimmer said. “Either way, he’s fine.”
What Zimmer failed to do was provide his definition of fine. Is Bradford going to live a long and productive life? That type of fine? We all hope so and have no reason to think that won’t be the case. But is Bradford’s knee fine? And is he going to have a productive 2017 season?
That has to be called into question after soreness in Bradford’s left knee became so severe last week, following his brilliant performance in a season-opening victory over New Orleans, that he underwent an MRI and then was limited in practice.
The initial thought after seeing Bradford’s name on the injury report was that he must have tweaked his knee against the Saints. Certainly, no one hit he took stood out. But it became clear that this was more than a minor issue on Friday when ESPN reported that Bradford was dealing with swelling, pain and discomfort.
Bradford tore the ACL in his left knee in the seventh game of the 2013 season and did not return until training camp the following year. He then re-injured the same ligament in a 2014 exhibition game and did not play again until 2015.
It sounds as if Bradford isn’t dealing with a re-injury to the ACL, but rather the wear and tear on his knee is catching up with him. Fox’s Jay Glazer reported Sunday morning that this isn’t going to be a one-week issue.
We at least have a much better idea of why Bradford nor the Vikings ever mentioned the potential for a contract extension this offseason, despite the fact the veteran is going into the final season of his deal. While no one from either side would have ever brought this up publicly, doctors probably cautioned the primary participants that this could be on the horizon.
As the news that Bradford would be inactive for Sunday’s game was being discussed by talking heads, it was interesting that the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that Teddy Bridgewater expects to be ready to return by the middle of the season and that the Vikings’ website posted Rapoport’s report.
Bridgewater is coming off a severe, non-contact knee injury suffered just before last season and has opened 2017 on the physically-unable-to-perform list. He must spend the first six weeks of the year on the PUP.
One would think the Vikings will take no chances with putting Bridgewater back on the field a moment before he’s ready and that, if anything, they will err on the side of caution.
That means that if Bradford’s knee continues to bother him – the issue is you can’t play him if he can’t protect himself by moving around — there’s a good chance that Keenum will be the Vikings’ starter for much of 2017.
That’s not exactly the recipe for making the playoffs, but quarterback adversity is nothing new at Winter Park. Neither is the head coach being in a foul mood because of it.