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After Vikings practice, Bridgewater says he'll 'definitely' play football this season

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) and quarterback Sam Bradford (8) drop back to pass Jun 13, 2017, at Winter Park in Eden Prairie, Minn. Brad Rempel / USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS — Teddy Bridgewater has gone from not knowing if he ever would play again to vowing he will take the field for a game this season.

After being out 14 months with a severe knee injury, the Vikings quarterback returned to practice on Wednesday, and on Thursday, Oc.t 20, spoke to the media.

"I definitely believe I'll play this year,'' Bridgewater said. "But I can't just sit here and say it. I have to continue to put the work in on the practice field and show the training staff or the higher authority that eventually I can get back to the player that I was.''

Bridgewater, who made the Pro Bowl after the 2015 season, took part in his second practice Thursday. He remains on the physically unable to perform list, and the Vikings have until Nov. 8 to decide whether to restore him to the 53-man roster or place him on injured reserve for the rest of the season.

Bridgewater declined to speculate on when the soonest is he could play. He said he's focusing first on practice.

The quarterback last practiced Aug. 30, 2016, when he suffered a torn left ACL and dislocated knee. He doesn't deny there was talk from doctors then that he might never play again.

Now, Bridgewater believes his comeback story can inspire others.

"I learned a lot about myself but I always tell myself it's not about me,'' Bridgewater said. "With this situation, the biggest thing I took away was that I hope that someone out there who's been counted out, who's been doubted, can look at my story and say here's a guy who was once counted out.

"I know I haven't played in a football game yet, but just being back on the practice field when I thought all hope was gone, I hope that my story can motivate someone.''

Bridgewater's teammates have been uplifted.

"If that doesn't inspire you, I don't know what will,'' said wide receiver Stefon Diggs. "To come back from an injury like that with a smile on his face ready to go.''

Bridgewater wore a big smile Wednesday when he ran out of the locker room onto the field and was greeted warmly by his teammates. He called it a "mini-milestone'' being back.

"It's been a long 14 months, but it was great to be back out there, see the reaction from the guys,'' he said.

Thursday was more business as usual. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said Bridgewater "moved around fine" and did "a little more" than on Wednesday.

Teammates raved after Wednesday's practice how Bridgewater had looked, and that continued Thursday.

"He looked even better,'' said wide receiver Jarius Wright. "He's just stacking great days together.''

Bridgewater said he could have returned to practice "a couple of weeks" ago but he wasn't eligible to since players placed on the PUP list can't take the field for the first six weeks.

Bridgewater said he has "felt very comfortable" and not rusty, but there is still plenty of work to do. Zimmer wants to see if Bridgewater can move well enough to elude the pass rush.

"I feel pretty confident in myself,'' Bridgewater said. "Playing quarterback, you have to be the eye of hurricane. There's a lot going around you so you have to remain calm and that's something I take pride in.''

The Vikings (4-2) play Baltimore on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium and face Cleveland on Oct. 29 in London before having a bye week. So a roster decision on Bridgewater will need to be made by the Nov. 12 game at Washington.

Sam Bradford, who has not played in four of the past five games because of a knee injury, did not practice again Thursday. Case Keenum is expected to get his fifth start of the season against the Ravens.

Throwing Bridgewater into the mix makes Minnesota's quarterback situation even more muddled.

"With Teddy, it's baby steps,'' said offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. "A little bit at a time.''

Bridgewater was cleared Monday to return to practice by Dr. Dan Cooper, the Dallas surgeon who operated on him. Bridgewater said Cooper regularly was pleased during checkups with how he was doing and that on Monday he "was pretty proud with all the work that I've put in.''

In addition to rehabbing his leg, Bridgewater said he has worked plenty on his upper body and has come back stronger.

"I'm going to look for little things each day to do whatever I can to get back to where I was before, and even better,'' he said.

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