When Teddy Bridgewater returned last season to be the Minnesota Vikings’ No. 2 quarterback by midseason, it was a great story. But it still doesn’t seem he’s all the way back.
There are still questions about Bridgewater’s health and his ability to practice with the New York Jets almost two years removed from a terrible injury.
Bridgewater’s status a “mystery”
Bridgewater, who suffered a horrific knee injury just before the 2016 season, was demoted during the playoffs by the Vikings to No. 3 quarterback for Sam Bradford, whose knee was so bad he hadn’t played since the season opener. That was a red flag. When Bridgewater became a free agent, he accepted a modest deal from the Jets. He’s guaranteed only $500,000, which shows there wasn’t much of a market for Bridgewater this offseason.
And there’s still question about how far along he is. Jets coach Todd Bowles was asked if Bridgewater could participate in the team’s next OTA practices in late May. Bowles said “I expect him to throw,” but then couldn’t say whether he would be a full participant.
“I can’t give you a hundred percent,” Bowles said, according to the New York Post. “I’ll see when it gets to that point and I’ll be able to tell you.”
The Post said Bowles was evasive in other answers about Bridgewater. The Post’s story from the weekend had the headline, “The mystery around Teddy Bridgewater.”
Bridgewater’s future with Jets is murky
Before Bridgewater hit free agency, many speculated he could be a starting option for teams like the Denver Broncos and Arizona Cardinals. That underestimated his health situation.
The Jets don’t see Bridgewater as their quarterback of the future, obviously. They re-signed 38-year-old Josh McCown and then traded up to draft Sam Darnold with the third overall pick. That led to headlines about Bridgewater’s roster spot this season being in danger, but that seemed obvious from the time the Jets moved up in the draft and practically made Bridgewater their No. 3 quarterback, at least heading into OTAs. No third quarterback is guaranteed a roster spot. Especially if he’s not healthy.
What’s next for Bridgewater?
First, Bridgewater needs to get on the field as a full participant in offseason practices. Bowles can be evasive with answers on many topics, so maybe there’s no real alarm. But it would be more comforting if Bridgewater is on the field doing everything in late May.
After that, preseason will be important. Unless Bridgewater shows enough over the spring and summer to rise to No. 2 on the depth chart ahead of McCown, he won’t get a ton of playing time except maybe the fourth preseason game. The Jets have to get Darnold, the quarterback of the future, as many reps as possible. And the Jets also have Christian Hackenberg, a second-round pick from 2016 who hasn’t played yet but is reworking his mechanics. The Jets have much more invested in Hackenberg than Bridgewater, even if Hackenberg has shown nothing yet.
Bridgewater’s preseason tape will be crucial since he’s on a one-year deal. He has to show to the rest of the league he’s healthy, because there’s no easy path to playing time for him in the regular season, even if he does make the roster. No team was willing to invest in Bridgewater this past offseason, and he’ll be another year removed from being the Vikings’ starter when he hits free agency again next year. Whatever he can show on the field is huge for him. He has thrown only two passes, preseason or regular season, since the injury.
Bridgewater’s injury was heartbreaking for an up-and-coming quarterback who was a first-round pick. His return was inspirational. Now it seems his story has a lot more uncertainty than answers.
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