Skip to main content

EAGAN — A bout with COVID-19 and a subsequent Week 11 benching had Garrett Bradbury doing some self-reflection.

The former first-round pick missed his first games as a Viking in November after two and a half years as the starting center. Once Bradbury returned from the Reserve/COVID-19 list, he was replaced by Mason Cole, who had performed well in Bradbury’s stead. The decision didn’t seem all that difficult either. For a third straight year, Bradbury found himself at the bottom of Pro Football Focus’s pass-blocking grades.

In a year when Bradbury had hoped to earn his fifth-year option, having the plug pulled midseason forced the third-year pro to “take a hard look in the mirror.”

“It's been a roller coaster, I'll be honest,” he said Thursday. “You find out you get COVID and you're home by yourself pretty much for 10 days, a lot of thoughts go through your head.

“While I was out and when I came back and wasn't playing right away, you go back and you watch every game from this season. And personally, I felt like watching the tape, I was playing to not mess up, playing a little timid. Whereas in the moment, I felt like I was just playing good, good enough, et cetera.”

After four games out of the lineup Bradbury was given a second chance after Christian Darrisaw’s ankle injury led to a reshuffle. Oli Udoh moved to left tackle, Cole shifted to right guard, and Bradbury took back his old post at center in Week 13. Against Detroit, Bradbury posted his best run-blocking grade of the year, and against Pittsburgh, he delivered his finest pass-blocking performance of the season, allowing zero pressures for the first time in 2021.

“I just tried to listen to the right people and keep my head on straight,” Bradbury said, “because I knew that I wasn't done playing for the year, so whenever I was going to go in, I had to be motivated, have the right thoughts and have the right mindset.

“You can go one of two ways with it -- you can be mad, bitter and all that or you can just say, ‘You know what, it's on me.’ Look at the film and say, ‘What could I have done differently?’ And so I always want to put it on myself so that way I can change it. So I feel like I’m taking the right steps and doing that right now.”

Bradbury’s improvement came after some encouragement from his head coach. Before the Steelers game, Mike Zimmer encouraged Minnesota’s offensive linemen to not settle for stalemates but to push back defenders, and the Vikings responded by rushing the ball for 242 yards with Bradbury as the fulcrum.

“I just wanted to play more on the attack instead of defensively,” he said. “Take it to them and play that physical style of football that Coach Zimmer wants us to be playing.”

The Pittsburgh performance was the type of game the Vikings have longed for from Bradbury, but it’s also just one. To guarantee a role into the future, Bradbury will need to string a few solid outings together against opponents that feature Akiem Hicks, Aaron Donald and Kenny Clark at defensive tackle.

If he can’t, Bradbury may enter 2022 in a contract year without a long-term future in purple.

“Nothing is guaranteed in this league, and I'm sitting here glad that it happened,” Bradbury said of his benching. “I feel like I'm playing my best ball of the season and I want to keep that going.”

READ MORE FROM PURPLE INSIDER BY BECOMING A SUBSCRIBER AT PURPLEINSIDER.SUBSTACK.COM

Next Up

Anthony Edwards

Ant's injury clouds Timberwolves' victory over the Nets

The Timberwolves star was injured in the final minutes on Sunday night.

Akoya Lee

Byron native Ayoka Lee sets NCAA record for points in a game

The Kansas State forward broke a record shared by former Gopher Rachel Banham.

cold, wind chill, freezing

It's going to be stupid cold again Tuesday and Wednesday

They'll almost certainly be the 10th and 11th days with subzero temps this month.

Williams Uptown Pub

Williams Uptown Pub & Peanut Bar closes indefinitely after shooting

Reports say police have arrested two suspects in the incident.

Alex Rodríguez

A-Rod wears a Packers hat, Minnesotans lose their minds

The Timberwolves co-owner didn't endear himself to his fan base on Saturday night.

Flickr - Minneapolis police squad - Chad Davis

Police: Man shoots into crowd at funeral reception in Minneapolis

The shooting happened at a reception following a funeral on Saturday afternoon.

Screen Shot 2022-01-23 at 8.37.27 AM

Watch: Jimmy Garoppolo says 'F*** the Packers' after playoff win

The 49ers quarterback congratulated Robbie Gould in spectacular fashion.

Aaron Rodgers

America dunks on Aaron Rodgers after loss to 49ers

The Packers quarterback was destroyed on social media on Saturday night.

Marcus Foligno

Foligno's OT winner gives Wild fans a happy Hockey Day

A slow start gave way to the Wild's fifth win in the past six games.

Related

20211128_Vikings_49ers_REG12_0144 (1)

What changes are coming to the Vikings' offensive line?

Once again, Minnesota has work to do to figure out its interior spots

1114_LA-112 (1)

A certain defensive look keeps stymying the Vikings' offense

Kirk Cousins may have to revert to some shorter throws if defenses take away explosive plays

IMG-6580

Zimmer is still searching for silver linings with the Vikings' run defense

The Vikings got gashed on the ground in their two most recent losses

20210827_Vikings_Chiefs_PRE03_553

Zimmer playing starters in meaningless game is aimless approach

Mike Zimmer said the Vikings plan to play everyone but is that the right move?

Justin Jefferson

Justin Jefferson criticizes offense after Sunday's loss to the Rams

The star receiver demanded more aggressiveness after the Vikings went two of five in the red zone.

20211031_Vikings_Cowboys_REG08_294

Vikings have refused to capitalize on bad quarterback play all season

Losing to a subpar Matthew Stafford was the latest missed opportunity

Kirk Cousins

Wide Left: Thank God the Vikings took Garrett Bradbury

Blair Anderson was worried Mike Zimmer would take another cornerback.