MINNEAPOLIS -- Teddy Bridgewater will be back in practice Wednesday for the first time in 14 months.
Today marks another milestone on Bridgewater's long and grueling road to recovery from the knee injury he suffered on Aug. 30, 2016. His perseverance towards a return has been witnessed up close by Minnesota Vikings players and coaches on a near-daily basis.
But the word "back" only relates to Bridgewater being able to participate in practice while remaining on the PUP list. Since going down with a dislocated knee and torn ACL, the quarterback hasn't gone anywhere. Bridgewater remained a constant presence at the Vikings facility in Eden Prairie despite being sidelined for more than a year.
In that time, the quarterback has enjoyed photobombing his teammates during interviews and cracking jokes at his locker, a place he'd hold casual conversations with players and media alike.
He often roamed the sidelines in practice and chatted with his teammates while they stretched. Some afternoons he'd be seen working on his drop backs and launching passes with team personnel looking on.
The offense is vastly different from the last time he played (more on that shortly), but Bridgewater had no trouble keeping up with what the rest of the team was doing.
"He's been taking the script every week and running it by himself over there on the other field," coach Mike Zimmer said. "He'll be ready. Teddy's smart."
While others have filled his spot during a prolonged absence, Bridgewater chose to stay around his teammates and not leave town to do his rehabilitation elsewhere.
Being here makes a statement about the dedication he has to not only return, but to those who supported him from the day he went down.
"It means a lot to everybody," Jerick McKinnon said. "It lets us know that he's here with us. He could be somewhere else but he'd rather sit here, grind out with us. As teammates, it just makes us feel like, 'OK, he's with us, and we can go from there.'"
Bridgewater's last game action (excluding the 2016 preseason) was on Jan. 10, 2016, when the Vikings fell to the Seahawks in the NFC wild card game. Minnesota captured a division title that season, and Bridgewater was named to his first Pro Bowl.
Since the last time Bridgewater was the quarterback, the offense has altered its identity significantly. Norv Turner was in charge of the Vikings' scheme as offensive coordinator before resigning in November 2016. He was replaced by then-tight ends coach Pat Shurmur.
The playmakers have changed quite a bit, too. Stefon Diggs shined in his rookie season and had a No. 2 receiver in Mike Wallace. The 2015 version of Adam Thielen totaled 144 yards receiving, a far-cry from his mega-productive 2016 campaign that helped him nab a three-year, $17 million contract in the offseason.
Coming off his suspension, Adrian Peterson was second to Bridgewater in total offensive production, compiling 1,485 yards rushing, while Cordarrelle Patterson returned kicks for more than 1,000 yards.
McKinnon is the only running back still on the roster from the last time Bridgewater played.
Sidelined for the entire 2016 season, Bridgewater watched the Vikings offensive line go from an injury-depleted rotation to a completely reworked unit this season. Soon, those players could be protecting him at game speed should the Vikings chose to activate the quarterback to the 53-man roster and decide to play at some point this season. They have three weeks to make that decision.
For now, the entire team will take baby steps to learn (and re-learn for some) Bridgewater's cadence, tendencies and the overall feel of the offense when he's in.