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Bridgewater: 'I've Had More Great Days Than Bad Days' During Rehab

MANKATO, Minn. — Whether it's been learning to walk again or going through the painstaking process of trying to put on his pants, Stefon Diggs has endured quite the grind over the past 11 months.

But the Vikings quarterback has remained steadfast in his resolve, even on days where progress might be tough to see.

Bridgewater met with the media Thursday at Verizon Vikings Training Camp, flashing his trademark smile and reiterating his passion and dedication for the game of football, noting his biggest mental hurdle was getting the game he loves taken away from him in the blink of an eye.

"Just not being out there with the guys (was the toughest part)," Bridgewater said. "I eat, sleep, breathe football.

"When I'm on the sideline watching those guys make big plays and have fun, it does something to you but in a good way," Bridgewater added. "It motivated you to say, 'Hey, I need to get back out there.' "

Bridgewater was injured on August 30 while dropping back on a play-action pass in a non-contact drill, less than two weeks before Minnesota's season opener.

Bridgewater called the injury a "freak accident" and said his knee just gave out when put too much force on his knee as he planted.

The quarterback said he'll always recall his teammates being by his side on the life-altering day.

"The biggest thing I remember is the guys supporting me when I was out there on that ground — different guys came up holding my hand, praying for me, things like that," Bridgewater said. "It shows a lot about the character of the guys we have around here, and I'm thankful to be a part of this team." 

Bridgewater's rehab process included dropping back while throwing to receivers at Winter Park this spring. The 24-year-old was placed on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list on Wednesday.

"We kind of knew it would be a long process," said Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer. "For where he's at right now, it is really remarkable.

"It's a testament to not only him but his mom, the way he was brought up … I think he's in a good place right now," Zimmer added.

Bridgewater mentioned his mother, Rose Murphy, and her battle with breast cancer as a source of inspiration during his rehab. 

"It's been one grind. The best thing that I had going for me is that I've had an experience with this kind of fight watching my mom battle breast cancer," Bridgewater said. "I come from amazing DNA, and we're fighters.

"You have your days where you don't see the progress, but it's a long process," Bridgewater added. "It's a rollercoaster that you go on but for me, I've had so much support that I've had more great days than I have bad days."

Bridgewater helped lead the Vikings to an 11-5 record and the NFC North title in 2015 when he passed for 3,231 yards with 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

Bridgewater's last game action came in the third preseason game of 2016 against the Chargers.  He completed 12 of 16 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph. Bridgewater, who also had a 22-yard scramble, compiled a passer rating of 127.3.

Bridgewater put together a first-half scoring drive that spanned six plays and covered 78 yards in 70 seconds. He completed all four passes for 74 yards — with three straight completions of 19, 22 and 27 yards.

Bridgewater missed the entire 2016 season as the Vikings went 8-8 and missed the postseason.

"I got to learn different things about the game. It allowed me to reassess myself as a player," Bridgewater said. "I studied myself and some of the things I didn't do well and how I can improve in those areas. 

"I was able to watch our team play last year. and those guys had a great season," Bridgewater added. "Guys did some things well, and I want to apply that to my game."

The Vikings acquired quarterback Kyle Rudolph four days after Bridgewater's injury. Bridgewater said he and Bradford constantly push each other to help make the Vikings a better team.

"Sam is great. He's all about football, and that's what you want," Bridgewater said. "He gets the best out of everyone in the room, and everyone in the room motivates each other.

"For Sam to do what he did last year, that was impressive," Bridgewater added. "I'm glad to be in the same room with him. I get to pick his brain, and he gets to pick my brain, and we get to challenge each other."

Bridgewater added he has spoken with other players — Frank Gore and Willis McGahee — who had serious knee injuries and received advice to make sure he was fully healthy before returning.

"The common theme is take your time," Bridgewater said. "I talked to some guys who came back too soon and some guys who took their time. The biggest thing is I have to know when my body is ready, I'll be ready."

Bridgewater said Thursday that he does not have a target date to return to practice, the next step in his goal of playing football again.

But even if the process takes a while, Bridgewater said he is in this for the long haul.

"I get to continue to live out my dream," Bridgewater said. "We don't know when it's going to happen, but for me, I know that's going to happen."

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