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Teddy Bridgewater's surgeon tells a story bigger than commercial lures



FLORHAM PARK, NJ – Dan Cooper knows Teddy Bridgewater's heart, as few people do, because Cooper cut quarterback's leg on September 8, 2016, when the most spectacular comeback of professional football began in a Dallas hospital

Amputation was no longer a dreaded possibility, and yet what the surgeon experienced that day was something that could be seen on the set of a sci-fi movie.

"It was just a terribly grotesque injury," said Cooper

A good doctor talked about the quarterback's left knee, which had exploded without warning nine days earlier, while Bridgewater fell back unharmed in a Minnesota Vikings workout.

"It's mutilated," Cooper said. It's almost like a war wound. Everything has blown. "


Bridgewater was traded by the New York Jets to free up space for Draft Decision No. 3, Sam Darnold, to begin on the opening day, and the jets will likely not provide Bridgewater with $ 5 million to back up Paying for Josh McCown, which is already on the books for $ 1

0 million, in fact, Friday's Giants' get-together could be the last chance for New York fans to see the former Vikings Pro Bowler as one of their own.

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Bridgewater could get by without a single regular seasonal push for the jets, who seemingly spent half a century looking for a young star to be the sport's premier position before moving on to two viable contestants ended up for the role at the same time.

Sam and Teddy. Teddy and Sam. The Jets apparently go with Darnold, which is probably more of a new address for Bridgewater than it used to be. Either way, New Yorkers should understand what they see while they still have a chance. Bridgewater is a not-so-small wonder, a walking advertisement for the power of the human mind.

"This surgery was an absolute abdominal test, a test of what you're made of, and I've seen people break it down," Cooper said. "I've never seen Teddy break down before, most people have no idea how much work this child had to spend, he had a toothpick from a leg he needed to rebuild."

Bridgewater gave his doctor permission to talk with ESPN.com about the operations – there were two – that gave him access to a second NFL life. Cooper, the Cowboys team doctor, remembered the first operation, which lasted about four and a half hours, and the second, eight weeks later, to treat the stiffness around the knee, which lasted about an hour. Both were listed at the Carrell Clinic in Dallas.

Just being on the football field is enough to make Teddy Bridgewater smile. Elsa / Getty Images

Bridgewater was referred to the surgeon by former Cowboys coach Bill Parcells, who had become something of a quarterback's confessor. Parcells told the doctor that Bridgewater was one of the biggest kids he'd ever met.

The truth is, Bridgewater was the Vikings & # 39; Darnold only a few years ago. He was the young and well-balanced franchise quarter-to-be, a prospect who had written a 15-year-old starter about him. And then suddenly on August 30, 2016, during a simple contactless drill, 25 minutes into practice, Bridgewater went into a pile. Teammates and coaches responded as teammates and coaches responded to the cruel leg injuries of Joe Theismann, Kevin Ware, Paul George and Gordon Hayward.

They screamed. They escape. They are afraid. They prayed. An ambulance with howling sirens raced into the complex to fetch a 23-year-old athlete who feared doctors would have to be amputated. Viking coach Mike Zimmer has canceled the training immediately. He was worried that Bridgewater would never leave again, let alone play again.

"This surgery was an absolute gut test, a test of what you're done with, and I saw how it broke people up, I never saw it break off teddy … most people have no idea of ​​the workload this kid had to have – he had a toothpick from a leg he needed to rebuild. "

Dan Cooper, Teddy Bridgewater's Surgeon

The coach became emotional that day as he talked about the devastating injury and even referred to the unexpected loss of his wife in 2009. Zimmer said he relied on a spiritual connection with his deceased father and continued the secular bond he shared with his professional mentor Parcells.

Viking trainers and first responders stabilized Bridgewater, who did not suffer the kind of arterial or nerve damage that could have cost his leg.

But it's certainly the worst knee displacement in sports I've ever seen without a nerve or vascular injury, "said Cooper." It's an injury that gets around 20-25 percent of NFL players back can. It's a terrible injury. You've torn every single part in your knee and it hangs on a band on one side like a hinge. "

Cooper did a reconstruction of the anterior cruciate ligament of Bridgewater," and then everything was reconstructed on the lateral side of his knee, about five ligaments over there, "the surgeon said." We repaired them, then took one of his own hamstrings – Stretching and transplanting them on the lateral side of his knee. "

The experience was incredibly exhausting for a doctor who had invested fully in his patients, and Cooper repeatedly claimed that his repair work in such cases was completed on the first day and that the athlete was left behind with overwhelming emotional and physical strains that he or she would have to cope with for a year or more each day. "Immediately after his injury, Bridgewater said," I come from amazing DNA, I saw my mother fight and to win against breast cancer. As a team we will attack my rehab with the same strength and energy. "

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Bridgewater made a return in December Returning to the field in Minnesota and throwing his only two passes of the season in a win over Cincinnati, the Vikings were until then Case Keenum, and soon they would belong to Kirk Cousins ​​In March, after the Jets Bridgewater became a one-year $ Zimmer signed that Vikings' reports about the recovery of his former quarts were "not as positive" as he had hoped

Cooper was on a plane as Bridgewater in debut in the preseason for the jets against Atlanta, he had a video worker from Dallas record the game for him. As the surgeon sat down to watch, he was deeply moved by the pictures of Bridgewater, who completed 7 of 8 passes for 85 yards and a touchdown. The Jets won 17-0, and no one dared to tell Cooper that this pre-season result was meaningless.

"I've always said that super bowls do not happen to surgeons in February," he said. "It was an incredibly enjoyable thing for me to see a player in it … That's why I do what I do to see Teddy play as he does."


It was a gray and drizzly Sunday morning, the one kind that asked you to stay in bed, and from early on Bridgewater wore the body language of a man who wished he had done just that. The jets ran through a two-hour training session in front of a small but spirited crowd of fans, and Bridgewater did not match the energy of the hot-blooded rookie Darnold, who hopped across the field as if he had just been awarded the start job for Keeps.

Bridgewater looked as if he had just learned about Darnold's appointment. He threw a touchdown pass on an offensive against Andre Roberts near the left sideline, and when he congratulated his quarterback by tapping his hand and helmet, Darnold seemed more excited about the pass than the man who delivered it , Then the first-rounder of USC took the field with the first-stringers while Bridgewater took the subs in the background.

Sam Darnold, background, is one of many jets in awe of Teddy Bridgewater, who is the quarterback "a cool cat." Tony Quinn / Icon Sportswire

Teddy knew it. So does McCown, the 16-year veterinarian. Anyone with a working pair of eyes and a keen sense of how things work in the NFL knew that after two preseason games, the jets had already decided it was useless to blush the redhead. Darnold should be her Type 1, except for something unforseen.

Todd Bowles and his offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates are raving about Darnold's maturity and presence, but they have also achieved some reverence for what Bridgewater already has. Bowles said the former Louisville star smiles forever, projecting the atmosphere of a perfectly healthy player.

"He never showed me he was hurt," Bowles said.

Bates said he had goose bumps at Bridgewater against Atlanta.

Darnold? He called his chief contest "a cool cat" with a balanced attitude that always told him, "Hey, brother, we're out here playing football, it's not getting any better."

In his second preseason game, against Washington, Bridgewater completed 10 of 15 passes for 127 yards and another touchdown to go. At his first interception and some hits, he said he had "absorbed to my own advantage. It's something I wanted to do and it just showed me, Hey, you're good. "

Yes, he is very good. Although Darnold was impressive, Bridgewater has outperformed him in those two games. His former Louisville offensive coordinator, current University of Pittsburgh Assistant, Shawn Watson, watched Bridgewater against Atlanta and Washington and figured he was whole. Watson saw a quarterback whose rhythm and ball position were exactly as they had been before the injury.

"I see Teddy," Watson said. "I see old Teddy, I see the guy I trained in Louisville."

Bridgewater also feels like this player. He said recently that it was fun to run and form people and that he was not deterred from doing any exercises. He shook questions about trade rumors, and who could blame him for refusing to sweat the little things?

"His inner determination kept him from being defeated daily for a year and a half."

Dan Cooper, Teddy Bridgewater's Surgeon

"I am blessed with the opportunity to continue to do what I love," said Bridgewater. "This is just the most important thing for me, I wake up every day and know that I can continue to play football."

The next day, at the end of otherwise lethargic Sunday morning in the rain, Bridgewater suddenly jumped to life on his last drive and fired a dash across the middle to finish Jordan Leggett for a walk-off touchdown practice. To celebrate the moment, the quarterback jumped playfully and repeatedly on the back of a defensive attack. Teddy Ballgame was back.

So far, it has been a hell of a comeback. Bridgewater, built like an iron, has proven to be one of the strongest men in the NFL.

"His inner resolve," Cooper said, "kept him from being defeated daily for a year and a half."

He could be traded anyway, and that's fine. Teddy Bridgewater does not need to take regular snapshots with the jets. He has already shaped a tough city that will not forget him so quickly.


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