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Spielman: Bradford in Line for 'Prime' of Career; Vikings have 'No Timeline' on Teddy

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Rick Spielman held up "the plan" for the offseason on Thursday.

Hours of film-study and assessment meetings and other factors had been compiled onto one piece of thick paper, 8 ½ by 17 inches or thereabouts, that will serve as a guide for the Vikings decision makers.

One side has offense, and the other side has defense. Each player who was on the Vikings roster in 2016 received a grade. Another column of the chart has players from other teams who are scheduled to become free agents, might be cut, or are candidates for trades at each position that have been stacked like a draft board.

The detailed process is to prepare the Vikings personnel department for free agency, which is scheduled to open March 9. Spielman displayed "the plan" from a considerable distance of reporters' eyes on Thursday during an annual media session.

The extent and amount of detail is somewhat ironic in the aftermath of a 2016 season that required major adjustments just days before its start.

The Vikings successfully opened U.S. Bank Stadium with an impressive showing in their third preseason game on Aug. 28. Two days later, however, Teddy Bridgewater suffered a dislocated knee during a non-contact practice rep.

The potential the team was showing prior to the setback at the sport's most important position prompted Spielman and his staff to execute a trade for Sam Bradford on Sept. 3, just eight days before the season-opener on the road.

Bradford was preparing for his second season in Philadelphia on a contract that included 2016 and 2017.

He stepped into the role of starting quarterback in Week 2 and helped the Vikings to a 5-0 start. Other injuries mounted, particularly on offense, where the Vikings were without Adrian Peterson for all but one game in the final 14 outings and lost both starting tackles by their fifth game.

Bradford, who will turn 30 in November, managed to throw for a career-best 3,877 yards and set an NFL single-season record with a 71.6 completion percentage.

"In talking about Sam a little bit, and I know [the media has] written about this, but I can't tell you how hard it is for him to accomplish what he was able to accomplish with everything that he had to deal with," Spielman said. "The one thing I know about Sam Bradford was that the way he played in the second half of his year in Philly [2015] and the way he played here, I think he's just right now in the prime of his career."

Spielman said he was impressed by the toughness that Bradford displayed and his ability to continue to adapt behind an offensive line that played 12 players and used eight different combinations of starters.

"To ever say that guy was not tough, with some of the shots that he had to take," Spielman said, "a lot of quarterbacks take shots in this league, but for him to get up every game like that and get out there and keep firing the ball around the field was incredible."

Although acquiring Bradford meant sending two picks, including a first-rounder, to the Eagles, Spielman said he would repeat the move without blinking.

"I can tell you, looking back on that trade, with all of the other options," he said, "that I would do that over in a [millisecond] to get a Sam Bradford on our football team, with the circumstance that we were dealing with because I think he's got a chance to be a pretty good player and quarterback in this league."

As for the status of Bridgewater, the 2014 Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year who was showing development after helping steer the Vikings to the 2015 NFC North title, Spielman said the Vikings are encouraging the 24-year-old in his rehab and recovery but are not going to rush him either.

"Internally, there is no timeline," Spielman said. "Every player goes through rehab. Teddy is attacking his rehab as diligently as he can. He's putting everything into it so he can get back on the field as quickly as he can.

"Our medical staff, who I think is the best in the NFL because of their history of getting players back on the field are doing their due diligence," Spielman added, "but everybody's body reacts differently, and he had such a significant injury, to say you need to put a timeline on a player, you can't."

Spielman recalled how outsiders tried to set expectations for Peterson after he tore his ACL in 2011. Peterson returned to action in 2012 and rushed for 2,097 yards, the second most in a single season in NFL history.

"It is totally unfair to say there's a timeline on Teddy Bridgewater because it's unknown," Spielman said. "No one knows where he's going to be. I know where he's at today. No one knows where he's going to be at three months from now. You just have to react [based on] how he's reacting to his rehab, push as hard as he can, and when it happens, it happens. I don't have any concern that he's not going to do everything he possibly can to get back as quickly as he possibly can."

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