EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - While he repeatedly insisted he's looking for "small milestones" in his continuing recovery from a major knee rebuild, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater could not keep his optimism under wraps one day after resuming practice.

"I definitely believe I'll play this year," Bridgewater told reporters Thursday before taking the field.

It has been nearly 14 months since the then-starting quarterback dislocated his knee in a non-contact situation during practice, damaging several ligaments in the process. There were serious doubts Bridgewater would ever take the field again, and his road back was filled with hard work and persistence.

While practice can be drudgery several months into the season, Teddy talked about his Wednesday workout like it was the Super Bowl.

"I've been working the doghouse, in the backyard (side field) by myself, so to be able to get out there with the guys was fun, I'm feeling pretty good," he said with a smile on his face. Bridgewater told reporters he didn't feel rusty, attributing it to the face he's been watching a lot of practice and game film, and is "familiar with his teammates and what they do."

Bridgewater was asked about taking his first hit, and said he doesn't anticipate it being a big deal. "Eventually when I get out there against an opponent they're going to be after me," he reflected. When questioned about his confidence in the structure of the surgically repaired knee, Teddy replied quickly. "I'm very confident. I wouldn't have gone out on that practice field if I wasn't." Still, he admits recovery is a work in progress, and that he will continue to work with team trainers and doctors to improve the strength and stability of the joint.

Missing more than a year of a career that is limited in scope was difficult, but Bridgewater says the ordeal was never about him: He wants others to learn from his experience. "I hope someone out there who has been counted out, who has been doubted can look at my story and say 'hey, here's a guy who's been counted out... I hope my story can motivate someone."