|Teddy Bridgewater's focus in Carolina: 'Continue to be myself'|
|New quarterback takes over for Cam Newton|
|Published Thursday, March 26, 2020 5:04 pm|
|THE ASSOCIATED PRESS|
|Teddy Bridgewater, who went 5-0 as a starting quarterback last year in New Orleans, takes over as the Carolina Panthers new starter after signing a three-year, $63 million deal Wednesday.|
It is a new era for the Carolina Panthers.
Teddy Bridgewater is not just replacing quarterback Cam Newton, arguably the best player in franchise history, whom the Panthers officially released this week. Bridgewater is also stepping in during the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic that put sports on ice as far as live competition is concerned. If his job was hard before, it just got harder.
“I’m aware of the situation I’m coming into,” Bridgewater said. “It’s a unique situation. For me, all I have to do is continue to be myself.”
Bridgewater, who is heading into his seventh NFL season, signed a three-year, $63 million contract with the Panthers. He has played 44 career games, going 22-12 as a starter with 38 touchdown passes and 7,652 yards.
“I’m excited right now, but unfortunately there are some things going on in the world,” Bridgewater said. “You have to be smart, and be safe. Safety comes first. I’m down in Miami. Can’t wait to meet my new teammates and new coaching staff and get acquainted, and keep going in Charlotte.”
Bridgewater, like many athletes, is training at home to prepare during unprecedented circumstances. He has equipment like a squat wrack and treadmill at his disposal but stressed the importance of following guidelines in place for social distancing.
“I have three flights of stairs that I can run up and down,” Bridgewater said.
Bridgewater, who was drafted 32nd overall by Minnesota in 2014, has more motivation than most to make his time in Charlotte count, whenever it physically begins. He earned a Pro Bowl nod in 2015 when he led the Vikings to their first NFL North title since 2009 with a record of 11-5. The following preseason, a non-contact play resulted in a torn ACL, structural damage and dislocated left knee barely 30 minutes into practice end his season. He landed in New Orleans in 2018 as a backup for Drew Brees, going 5-1 as a starter, including 5-0 last year when Brees injured his right thumb. Bridgewater passed for 1,384 passing yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions in 2019.
“I knew when Drew got injured, I had big shoes to fill,” Bridgewater said. “I just constantly reminded myself to just be you—be the best version of Teddy I could be. By doing so, it allowed me to be a better teammate, a better football player and a better person.”
A New Orleans connection awaits Bridgewater in Charlotte in first-year offensive coordinator Joe Brady, who spent two seasons as a Saints offensive assistant, and won last year’s FBS national championship with LSU as passing game/receivers coach. Bridgewater credits Brady, who won last year’s Broyles Award for the best assistant coach at the collegiate level, for shaping him as a player.
“He was the guy who taught me everything when I got to New Orleans,” Bridgewater said. “I’d gotten traded there at the end of the preseason and coaches were in grind mode, preparing Drew and the team for the season. Joe was the guy who worked with me after practice, end of pregames. He was the guy who took me through drills. We went over the call sheet together. He just stayed active with me.”
While Bridgewater continues to prepare for the 2020 season, the world holds a collective breath on COVID-19. In the meantime members of the NFL community like Panthers owner David Tepper and Brees have committed millions to charities to fill the financial void in a nation forced to face a new normal.
“That’s the beauty of having the platform we have as athletes,” Bridgewater said. “We’re able to provide a voice and make an impact on society. Everyone is going crazy without sports, but there are bigger issues in the world. To see a guy like Drew and a couple owners who are stepping up and doing what they’re doing, it’s great. It makes you feel great to be a part of that brotherhood.”
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