EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer is outlining his goals for the offseason, and among them is working through Minnesota's quarterback situation.
Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford both spent portions of the 2017 season on the Injured Reserve list, and Case Keenum went 12-2 as a starter in the regular season. He was 1-1 as a starter in the postseason, leading the Vikings to a win over the Saints in the Divisional round before Minnesota fell at Philadelphia in the NFC Championship.
Bridgewater, Keenum and Bradford all have contracts that are set to expire.
"I guess it's unique," Zimmer said of having three quarterbacks on the roster who have been starters and have contracts expiring at the same time. "You work through it and you go about your business. I remember my first year here, when I got here we had like three names that were potential starters on the defensive board. That's why you have the draft and free agency, all those things. So, we'll work through all that process.
"I'm really not prepared to comment on it after we got back at 3 a.m. yesterday," Zimmer added during his session with Twin Cities media. "So, we're just going to work through it, just like we always do, and go from there."
This week will start Zimmer's process of self-scouting the current team as well as evaluating areas of improvement, draft options and free agency, all of which could weigh on the quarterback situation.
"I'm going to work through the process, just like I always do. We're going to evaluate all the players; we're going to evaluate everybody," Zimmer reiterated.
Bradford had a career outing in Week 1 against the Saints but suffered a knee injury that sidelined him for the remainder of the regular season. He was taken off IR and added to the active roster in January and served as Keenum's backup in both playoff games.
Zimmer said he thinks Bradford is "doing good" physically.
"He's at the point where he can play. You just have to figure out where's he at because obviously we didn't get to see him through games," Zimmer said. "We had some conversations between me and him, but he feels like he is, so we'll just have to see how he continues to improve."
Bridgewater saw limited game action in 2017 when he got on the field to finish out the Vikings-Bengals game on Dec. 17. It was the first time he had played in a game since the 2016 preseason, during which he dislocated his knee at practice.
When asked specifically if Zimmer would have liked to see a larger sample size of Bridgewater in a game, Zimmer said he considered it an "unbelievable achievement" that Bridgewater was able to return to the field at all this season.
"When this injury happened, we researched this injury," Zimmer said. "There were 24 of these similar types of injuries through all sports, [and] half of them never came back. I think the earliest that anybody ever came back [from one] was 24 months.
"So, for him to even get to that point to where he was, and be able to come out and practice and compete, get in a game, was a true credit to him," Zimmer continued. "Would I have liked to see him more on the field? Yeah."
Here are three other topics Zimmer addressed during his season-end podium session:
1. Update on Dalvin Cook
The Vikings traded up in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft to snag Dalvin Cook, and he proved to be a welcome addition to Minnesota's offense.
The rookie running back had a standout start to the season, rushing for 354 yards through the first three-and-a-half games before tearing his ACL against the Lions Week 4.
Zimmer gave an update on Cook "in layman's terms" by quoting Director of Sports Medicine/Head Athletic Trainer Eric Sugarman: "He said, 'The kid is doing really great.' "
Zimmer said that it's "hard to speculate" how different the Vikings offense would have been if Cook would have remained healthy. Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon stepped up in Cook's absence, helping the Vikings rack up 1,661 yards rushing in Weeks 5-17, averaging 138.4 yards per game.
"I think Dalvin is an unbelievable player. I think you saw that in the beginning games," Zimmer said. "Am I taking something away from the way Jerick and Latavius played if I speculate on that? I don't know. I thought those two guys came in and did a really nice job. I think Dalvin is a tremendous, tremendous football player. Do I think he would have made a difference? Yes."
2. Having a hand in healthy players
While the Vikings dealt with a handful of injuries throughout the season, as is expected for any NFL team, Minnesota's defense stayed relatively healthy, as pointed out by a media member.
Zimmer credited Vikings strength coach Mark Uyeyama, who is completed his first season with Minnesota.
"One of the things a lot of the players talked about yesterday [during exit interviews] was we had a new strength coach this year, Mark Uyeyama. They felt like this is the strongest they've been, best strength coach they've had here," Zimmer said. "A guy that has done an unbelievable job, so the guys gave him an awful lot of credit. I think that is part of it."
And the other part?
"Part of it is luck. Some of these injuries are unlucky," Zimmer added. "The one that happened to [Pat] Elflein the other night [against the Eagles] was an unlucky one. The one that happened to [Nick] Easton [at Green Bay] was unlucky. Part of it is luck."
3. A message to the fans
In the past day-and-a-half since the Vikings tough loss to the Eagles, Zimmer has had a chance to reflect on the overall season and emphasized that he's proud of the way his team performed.
He is still disappointed, of course, that the Vikings were unable to achieve their ultimate goal of playing in Super Bowl LII, and he expressed regret for not being able to make it to the big game for the team's "unbelievable fans."
"I got some texts about how through the playoff game, [all of the people that were] doing the SKOL Chant last week and all of that stuff. Our fans were unbelievable the way they helped this football team out," Zimmer said. "They talked about bringing the whole state together, the state of Minnesota and Vikings fans throughout the world.
"That made me feel good that we were able to bring a bunch of people and try to work for a common goal," Zimmer added. "Unfortunately, we weren't able to finish it for them, so that is one of the disappointments."