Head coach Mike Zimmer complicated the return timetable a bit after Minnesota's loss to the Steelers on Sunday by saying "Sam is fine. He might play one game from now, he might play six weeks from now. Either way, he's fine."
NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported Monday Bradford's injury is believed to be a bone bruise, per a source informed of the situation. And according to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport, one game from now sounds more accurate -- with a qualifier.
Rapoport reported on Good Morning Football Monday morning that "the belief was ... this was a one-week injury for Bradford. The ACL is fine, the other ligaments are fine, this really was just a swelling and discomfort issue from taking a shot to his knee last week.
"The only thing is, they really don't know how his knee is going to respond to treatment; how his knee is going to handle getting worked on all week and when he'll be able to fully bend it like he needs to. They think it's going to be one week. They think he'll be under center next week. But until you go on a few days and see how the treatment takes hold, there's really no way to know for sure."
This was obviously a point of frustration for Zimmer, who told reporters Monday that Bradford is improving but remains day to day. "I don't have a crystal ball," he added, "... I wish I did, I'd call some games better."
If Zimmer has learned anything during his tenure as head coach of the Vikings, it's to treat his quarterbacks like Fabergé eggs. Bradford put on a clinic against New Orleans' porous defense last Monday and, even if he's 75 percent as effective next week against the Buccaneers, it's good enough to keep Minnesota in the hunt for a playoff spot this year.
Bradford's career has been a series of frustrating starts and stops; new offensive coordinators, head coaches, systems, schemes or injuries that end up sapping months from his career. While the Saints defense is not an accurate measure of comfort or progress for a quarterback, it was encouraging to see the Bradford that NFL scouts raved about for years. Zimmer has no choice but to bottle that hope and ensure that there are no kinks in Bradford's drop back when he returns to the field. If that takes more than a week, so be it.