EDEN PRAIRIE –For the past two seasons, Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has worked with General Manager Rick Spielman to build a team around quarterback Stefon Diggs.
Now, he has confidence in those players to stand strong, even if Bridgewater leads from the sideline. Bridgewater suffered a "significant knee injury" without contact during Tuesday's practice, but the coach vowed to move his team past the loss.
"We'll get back in here tomorrow and get back to work," Zimmer said. "We're not going to stick our heads in the sand, we're not going to go tuck our legs, we're not looking for excuses.
"We're going to go out and fight like we always do," Zimmer added. "We've got some great football players on this team, we'll figure out ways to win football games if he's not here. And that's what we're going to do."
A number of players took a knee on the field when Bridgewater suffered the injury, while a few – including Adrian Peterson – surrounded their teammate as he received medical attention.
If the Vikings end up facing a season without Bridgewater, Zimmer said he has every bit of faith in his team to continue rallying and moving forward.
"The thing we have to all remember is, is that this is about the team," Zimmer said. "This isn't about a one-man deal. We all feel terrible if it is real significant for Teddy, but this is about the team."
Zimmer went on to emphasize Minnesota's defense, a "much better" offensive line, receiving corps and "maybe the best running back in the NFL" and said they will continue trying to figure out how to win football games.
The Vikings will take the field for their final preseason game against the Rams Thursday night and then prepare for their season opener at Tennessee on Sept. 11. Zimmer said the team will take the time to grieve – "it's more about our feelings for Teddy and him as a person and getting better than it is about anything else" – before getting back to business tomorrow.
"No one's going to feel sorry for us; no one's going to cry," Zimmer said. "The Tennessee Titans or Green Bay Packers, or we can go down the schedule. No one's going to feel sorry for us. So, I'm not going to feel sorry for us, either. I'm not going to let this team feel sorry for itself."
Zimmer said he loves Bridgewater, calling the 23-year-old "a great kid." He knows that Bridgewater will return as soon as he possibly can. In the meantime, the team will keep fighting.
"We can talk all we want, but we have guys in that locker room – Everson Griffen, Harrison Smith, Brian Robison, Anthony Barr, Kyle Rudolph, Adrian Peterson, Riley Reiff, [Joe] Berger, [Brandon] Fusco, Andre Smith – I mean, I can go down the line, and I'll take them with me in an alley anywhere."
Zimmer said he lives by the mentality that his father, who passed away last summer, instilled in him: "We will find a way." The head coach said it's that tenacity that he's also worked to impart to his team. According to Zimmer, the goals for the 2016 season haven't changed due to Bridgewater's injury.
"We're going to try to figure out the very best way we can beat the team that we're playing that weekend, however we have to do it," Zimmer said. "We have a good football team, and that's what we're going to do."