EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –Teddy Bridgewater on Sunday will suit up for the Vikings 441 days after his last game during the 2016 preseason.
He isn't listed as the starter, but Bridgewater doesn't mind. What's most important to him is that he'll be in the locker room with his teammates.
"I can't wait to get out there Sunday with the guys and get that feeling of coming out of the locker room, preparing for a game, preparing to play," Bridgewater said. "I'm just excited."
The quarterback spoke to Twin Cities media members Thursday after the Vikings announced Wednesday that he had been activated to the 53-man roster.
Bridgewater said he never questioned if he would return to the field.
"I never had any doubts," Bridgewater said. "That's a credit to the people around me. They never once let me get down, they never counted me out. So getting back out there, this is not only about me, it's about the people who counted me in.
"There were a bunch of people who counted me out, outside of this building and things like that, but at the end of the day, it's about going out there and competing for the guys in this locker room and all the people who counted me in," he continued.
Bridgewater earlier spoke of the support he's had from teammates, specifically mentioning Terence Newman and the lift he provided on days that were particularly challenging. Bridgewater said that seeing his comrades share in his emotions means a lot.
"It's been amazing. This locker room is special," Bridgewater said. "We have a great group of guys here, have a bunch of leaders, so to be out there with those guys and see their reactions, it continues to just add fuel to my fire and give me some excitement."
Since being cleared to practice just over three weeks ago, Bridgewater has once again stepped foot on the Winter Park field on which he suffered the devastating knee injury that ended his 2016 season before it started.
Asked if he has any anxiety associated with the area on which he went down, Bridgewater said he hasn't given it any thought.
"Like I said, once I get out there between those lines, I have no regrets, no doubt, I'm just out there and living my dream. Continuing to live my dream," Bridgewater said. "There was a chance, there was a time where the dream may have ended or died, but the dream's still alive. So I'm excited. I pay no attention to the spot. I pay no attention to the action, the play-action that I did that day. Just, hey, give it my all. Like I said, if it's part of God's plan, I'm all for it."
Bridgewater didn't deny that mental hurdles were a part of the 14-month-plus recovery process but said, "I honestly think I'm over them," in part with the help from his Vikings community. In addition to his teammates, Bridgewater pointed to Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer, whom he called "one of the toughest guys" he's ever met.
Another form of motivation was found in the local youth back home in Miami. He recalled speaking with young athletes who have big dreams themselves.
"There was a time I would be home and I'd say something to a kid, and the kid would say, 'Hey, you know, you're hurt. You can't talk to me.' So hearing that, it motivates you in a different way," Bridgewater said. "Because it's like, 'Hey, this kid looks up to me. So I'm not out there, who's he going to look up to?' So I have to do what I have to do to get myself ready to go play, ready to go back out there, and give these kids some more motivation."
While Bridgewater maintained a strong character and confidence throughout his rehab process, he reiterated that one way in which he changed was learning to appreciate the little things in life that could easily be taken for granted.
To think back months ago, Bridgewater is that much more grateful to now be game-planning for Week 9.
"[There] was a time where I couldn't even put my pants on by myself, or I couldn't even walk," Bridgewater said with his signature smile. "To be able to be able to stand right here doing an interview, or to be able to practice later today, that makes you appreciate the smaller things."