The 2017 season could not have gotten off to a much better start for the Minnesota Vikings.
Coming off a 29-19 victory over the visiting New Orleans Saints this past Monday, optimism and positivity in general has spread like wildfire across Vikings Territory.
Between a borderline flawless effort from new left tackle Riley Reiff, running back Dalvin Cook turning in a rookie debut on par with that of his predecessor’s and a performance for the ages from highly-criticized quarterback Sam Bradford; it appeared as though everything may finally be falling into place for the Vikings.
As with most successful periods in team history, however, this brief, four-day period of ecstasy has the potential to be short-lived. According to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, Bradford has been hampered by discomfort and swelling in his left knee, prompting the quarterback to receive an MRI this past Tuesday.
Vikings' concern re: Bradford left knee (two ACL repairs) but hope. MRI Tuesday was negative after swelling, pain, discomfort, per sources. https://t.co/TBQ5IGz8uv
— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) September 15, 2017
Fortunately for Minnesota, however, test results on its signal-caller’s surgically-repaired left knee came back negative. Bradford, who suffered a pair of Grade 3 ACL tears in under a year during his tenure with the then-St. Louis Rams, has a long and well-documented history of knee problems. He missed the final nine games of the 2013 season and all 16 Rams matchups the following year before continuing his career with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Bradford appeared on the Vikings injury report following a prolific effort against the Saints that netted him NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors. He was listed as a “limited” practice participant both on Wednesday and Thursday before news broke Friday that his ailing knee could be a greater concern than initially perceived.
Bradford currently ranks first in the league in completion percentage (84.4%), first in yards per attempt (10.81), second in passer rating (143.0), second in passing yards (346), second in touchdowns (3) and sixth in completions (27) with 15 games still yet to be played during Week 2.
News of yet another untimely injury just weeks removed from the anniversary of Teddy Bridgewater’s knee implosion certainly won’t sit well with Vikings fans, but there may actually be light at the end of the tunnel this time around.
According to Courtney Cronin of ESPN, Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer “anticipates” that Bradford will play this Sunday in Pittsburgh despite the wave of negative developments pertaining to the immediate health of the Vikings starting field general.
Mike Zimmer says he anticipates Sam Bradford will play on Sunday.
— Courtney Cronin (@CourtneyRCronin) September 15, 2017
In the event that Bradford is unable to take the field this weekend, Minnesota will trot out its newly-minted backup quarterback, Case Keenum. Keenum, who started nine games (4-5) for the Rams in 2016, completed 33 passes on 48 attempts (68.5%) for 325 yards and two touchdowns during the preseason.
Keenum defeated Taylor Heinicke during a competition this summer for the right to backup Bradford. His career-to-date doesn’t lend much reason for optimism, having been a marginal spot-starter during five seasons in both Houston and Los Angeles, but it sounds as if the veteran passer has — at the very least — earned the respect of the Vikings locker room:
If something were to happen to Bradford #Vikings Jarius Wright says "I know I trust Case (Keenum) & I know the rest of the guys trust Case."
— Chris Tomasson (@christomasson) September 15, 2017
Heinicke was waived with an injury settlement shortly after, leading Minnesota to pony-up the big bucks to sign preseason phenom Kyle Sloter to its practice squad. The latter represents an emergency option for the Vikings, as it remains extremely unlikely that the former Northern Colorado Bear and Denver Bronco will be signed to the 53-man roster and activated ahead of Sunday’s contest.
In the event that Minnesota decides to take the field with only one active quarterback, the Vikings do have a pair of intriguing super-emergency options — newly-acquired Blake Bell passed for over 1,700 yards at Oklahoma before converting to tight end, and running back/kick returner Jerick McKinnon called the shots in Georgia Southern’s triple-option offense for four seasons.
All statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference, unless otherwise noted.