When the Vikings reported for training camp back in July 2016, optimism was high in Minnesota. The Vikings were coming off a playoff season in 2015 and their quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, had just put together a career year.
Most of that optimism went out the window on Aug. 30, though, when Bridgewater suffered one of the most gruesome injuries in recent NFL history. On a non-contact play during practice, Bridgewater planted his foot wrong, which led to a torn ACL and dislocation of his left knee.
In his first interview since suffering the injury last August, Bridgewater revealed the damage to his knee was so severe that at one point, he thought he might lose his leg.
"Probably," Bridgewater said when asked if he was in danger of losing his leg. "I just know that I was in the back of the truck and [Vikings trainer Eric Sugarman] was back there with me and we had a conversation and I'm pretty sure that both of us were pretty nervous about that conversation."
According to Bridgewater, if the Vikings trainers hadn't responded so swiftly to his injury, he probably would've ended up losing his leg.
"I'm glad that everyone reacted in a timely manner and were able to save my leg, if that's what you want to call it," Bridgewater said.
Although Bridgewater made an appearance at Vikings OTAs this offseason, the quarterback never actually talked to the media. Bridgewater said he wasn't trying to avoid the media for the past 11 months, he just wanted to make sure he was good to go "health-wise" before doing an interview.
"I told myself that I wanted to do everything that I could to get better, and no offense to you guys, doing interviews and different phone calls doesn't help me get better health-wise," Bridgewater said.
Bridgewater was placed on the PUP list by the Vikings on Wednesday, which means he likely won't be suiting up at all during training camp. The quarterback hasn't been cleared to play and still has plenty of rehab to do before anyone will see him back at practice.
The 24 year old said that rehab has actually been a learning experience for him after suffering such a horrific injury.
"Right now, I'm still in the process of learning my body all over again," Bridgewater said, via NFL.com. "And it's been fun because you learn new things about yourself that you didn't know before. And you find different strengths and weaknesses and you try to tweak everything so that everything is a strength. Right now, I'm focusing on my overall body from head to toe. And that's just what's most important."
One thing Bridgewater isn't focusing on is whether or not the Vikings are his team or Bradford's team. For now, Bridgewater says it's not an issue he's even thinking about because he's not even healthy enough to play.
"Right now, I can't even think long term," Bridgewater said. "I have to take it one day at a time. Like I said, within the blink of an eye, it was taken away from me. Right now, I have to just focus on Teddy. Try to get healthy, and the rest will take care of itself."
To help with his rehab, Bridgewater has reached out to several other players who have suffered similar injuries.
"I've talked to numerous guys, and the common theme is take your time," he said. "I've talked to some guys who came back too soon, I've talked to some guys who took their time. The biggest thing is, I just have to know when my body is ready, I'll be ready. I've talked to Frank Gore, Willis McGahee -- different guys who had similar injuries to me. Those guys have been great mentors to me and kept me motivated."
Bridgewater, who's been throwing passes since at least March, is now looking forward to what comes next.
"That first initial hit or contact will tell me I can do this," Bridgewater said, via the St. Paul Pioneer-Press. "If I can do it one time, I can do it forever."
There's still no timetable on when Bridgewater might return, but when he does return, he definitely wants it to be with the Vikings. The team decided not to pick up his fifth-year option, which didn't come as a surprise to Bridgewater.
"I understand what's going on, but I try not to get into the contractual stuff," Bridgewater said. "I leave that to my agent. My primary focus is football and getting healthy, so that's what I'm here to talk about.
The 2017 season is set to be the final year of Bridgewater's rookie contract. Despite the fact that Minnesota didn't pick up his option, Bridgewater answered, "yea," when asked if he wanted to be a Viking for life.