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Joe Theismann: The game will come back to Teddy Bridgewater quickly

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Berry and Schefter say Bridgewater could play next week (0:38)

Matthew Berry and Adam Schefter break down when Teddy Bridgewater could return to the field for the Vikings. (0:38)

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Only those present on the practice field when Teddy Bridgewater went down with a dislocated knee know the impact of the injury in the moment.

It was a freak accident so gruesome that, to this day, few have detailed what they saw.

The entire world was subject to what Joe Theismann lived through when his playing career came to an abrupt end on Monday Night Football some 32 years ago.

Widely considered among the most devastating sports injuries ever, Theismann broke his right leg between the ankle and knee when he was tackled by Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor while attempting to execute a flea-flicker.

The former Redskins Super Bowl champion quarterback would never play another down as the injury capped a 12-year career. Over the past 14½ months, Bridgewater, who has only two seasons under his belt, has persisted through extensive rehabilitation in hopes of keeping his dream alive.

The Minnesota Vikings quarterback was moved to the active roster this week and will back up Case Keenum against Washington on Sunday. The hurdles he overcame on his journey to stage a comeback finally will be in his rearview mirror when he steps onto the field during a game. It's a moment he has had time to play out in his head over and over for more than a year.

"Once I get out there, it's no regrets, no holding back," Bridgewater said. "Whatever is meant to happen, happens. I trust God's plan for me."

Theismann has counseled athletes who have been through devastating injuries on how to overcome the physical and mental hurdles when they return to play. His biggest piece of advice? Don't be in a hurry.

"With a broken leg, it's one thing. With knees, it takes a while to get back," Theismann said, citing the return of basketball players Paul George and Kevin Ware. "It's almost a good thing that it's taken him this long because if he would have come back sooner, he possibly could have been susceptible to more damage and more injury."

Before he could be activated off the physically unable to perform list, Bridgewater's doctor and Minnesota's medical staff needed proof that the quarterback's knee would be able to hold up against pressure at game speed.

The Vikings put the quarterback in as many uncontrolled environments as they could simulate to see how he would evade a pass rush and protect himself.

Being back in practice for more than three weeks has allowed Bridgewater to get a feel for having players around his knee.

Minnesota's offensive line undoubtedly will feel a responsibility to keep defenders away from their QB while coaches will try to make adjustments within the scheme to ease him back in.

"It's not just Teddy, but the way the game is called when he gets in," Theismann said. "The playcalling can help tremendously. You want him to get the ball out of his hands, you want to be able to support him with the running game and stay out of that third-and-12, third-and-15 the first time he takes a snap because there's going to be pressure."

One of the hardest things for injured athletes attempting to come back stronger than ever is battling the notion of being the player they once were. That's a conversation Theismann had several times with former Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III, whose knee injuries early on derailed his NFL career.

"Robert was a scrambler," he said. "When you have good knees and good legs in this business and you did that in college, there's a sense of confidence that goes with it. When you lose a step or it's not quite the same, you have to be able to adjust your game accordingly. I still believe to have any longevity in professional football, you have to be able to work from the pocket.

"I hurt my knee my second year as a starter. We were 6-2. I was on the cover of Sport Magazine. I had a bad knee. I wasn't able to move around so I worked out of the pocket. I got the ball out of my hands and let the other guys do their job because I was more of a scrambler."

Bridgewater's career left off with a Pro Bowl season in 2015. He threw for more yards in his first two years than any Vikings quarterback over that same time frame and holds the highest completion percentage (64.9) of any quarterback in his first two seasons in NFL history.

It will take time for Bridgewater to reach the heights he did two years ago. He took it upon himself during his road back to stay mentally involved when he wasn't practicing. Virtual reality helped him process where he wants to throw the football against certain coverages, down and distances, etc.

He has done everything he can to stay ready, but there are certain things he won't know how to handle until he's back under center.

"The thing you don't process when you're standing around is what you do with a wet ball," Theismann said. "What's the grip going to feel like? What's the footing going to feel like? That only comes from game-time situations."

Bridgewater's return could come this Sunday or later in the season. The preparation he has put in to beat the odds of returning from a gruesome, potentially career-ending injury have put him in a favorable position to work toward getting back to what made him a rising star in the first place.

"Teddy has proven himself," Theismann said. "He was in the embryonic stages of playing the position and learning how to play the position [when he went down]. It'll come back to him quickly. He's a terrific athlete."