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Vikings QB Bradford: 'I feel good'

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford looks on during the fourth quarter against the Miami Dolphins at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Aug. 31, 2017. Jeffrey Becker / USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS — Sam Bradford said Friday, Oct. 6, his left knee feels more comfortable than at any point since he was injured Sept. 11 and that he is anxious to see if it continues responding well after a full week of practice.

The Vikings quarterback stopped short of declaring himself ready to play Monday night against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field, but his optimism was palpable in his first public comments in more than two weeks.

"I feel good," he told reporters at Winter Park. "Being able to go out there and practice was obviously a step in the right direction. Being able to go back out there tomorrow and see what it feels like and be able to make it through today, be able to make it through (Saturday), I think that's key for me being able to go out there and play at a high level."

Bradford has missed the past three games and did not practice all last week after visiting renowned orthopedic surgeon, Dr. James Andrews, Sept. 22 in Florida.

The second opinion reassured him that rest and rehabilitation with Vikings medical personnel was prudent. And the result was less swelling and pain that allowed Bradford to return to the field Thursday and recover well enough to plan on working out again Friday and Saturday.

"I just wanted to make sure there wasn't something else there," Bradford said. "Any time you go for a second opinion, there always is a little anxiety because you're not quite sure how it's going to go or what that conversation's going to be like. But I'd say after going down there it was definitely good news."

Bradford was listed on Friday's injury report as a limited participant. Head coach Mike Zimmer said he was moving better in practice but declined to answer any more questions about the quarterback.

Bradford threw for 346 yards and three touchdowns and registered a career-best 143 passer rating in a dominant 29-19 victory over the New Orleans Saints in Week 1. He was injured on a non-contact play during that game at U.S. Bank Stadium and has not played since.

Bradford declined to confirm NFL Network reports that he is battling a bone bruise but said he left Dr. Andrews confident in his rehab program for the rest of this season and his longer-term status as a 2018 free agent.

"It was comforting knowing that if things go according to plan, it should be something that eventually goes away," he said. "I would like it to be 100 percent, but at this point I don't even know if that's possible until the bye week or the end of the year.

"The goal is to feel comfortable moving around, to go out there and play and know I am going to have to play through some discomfort."

The Vikings are 1-2 with Case Keenum at quarterback. The backup was ineffective in a 26-9 loss Week 2 at Pittsburgh but was spectacular the following week in a 34-17 home win over Tampa Bay: 369 yards, three touchdowns. He struggled in last week's 14-7 home loss to Detroit, completing just 16 of 30 passes for 219 yards while being sacked twice.

Minnesota also lost rookie running back Dalvin Cook, who had emerged as a running, catching, blocking dynamo in three-plus games, to a season-ending ACL injury last weekend. Veteran running back Latavius Murray will be tapped, along with Jerick McKinnon, to fill that gaping hole in the backfield starting against Chicago.

"Losing Dalvin is a tough blow on offense, but Latavius and Jet, both of those guys have played a lot of football," Bradford said. "They've got a lot of experience and we're comfortable with them. We've just got to get back out there and get going."

Minnesota's wide receiver duo of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs lead the NFL in 20-yard receptions in 2017, three of those four games coming with Keenum under center. Diggs brushed off any uncertainty about timing and chemistry with Bradford if he should return Monday night.

"I don't expect any drop-off," Diggs said. "Sam's a great quarterback. He always makes good decisions and puts us in a good situation. I've got faith in him. I'm not really worried about picking up where we left off. We're trying to start something new, keep it going."

Bradford is a prototypical pocket passer with limited mobility, healthy or otherwise. His inability to protect himself against a pass rush was as much of a factor to his absence as pain and swelling.

He said Friday that his mobility "has definitely improved" and that the difference between how his knee felt two weeks ago and Thursday "was day and night."

Meanwhile, Bradford has confidence in how well the Vikings' offensive line has played in pass protection. It has only allowed four sacks in four games, including a crucial red-zone sack in the waning minutes against Detroit that was a result of Keenum checking out the wrong protection scheme at the line.

"Those guys have played great all year," Bradford said. "The way those guys are playing is definitely a strength of our offense right now and as a quarterback it's comforting knowing those five guys are playing as well as they are."

The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.

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