|Panthers QB Teddy Bridgewater: "I play the game the way I play it'|
|Starter isn't interested in Cam Newton comparison|
|Published Tuesday, August 4, 2020 8:30 pm|
|BRANDON TODD | CAROLINA PANTHERS|
|Carolina Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is comfortable being his own man as Cam Newton's successor. "I play the game the way I play it," he said. "I carry myself the way I carry myself. I'm going to live and die by that."|
He signed a three-year contract with the Panthers in March, replacing franchise quarterback Cam Newton, who is now in New England. Bridgewater learned in New Orleans trying to compete with the stature of Drew Brees was pointless, and he won’t do battle with the ghost of Cam Newton in Carolina.
“One of the biggest problems I had my first year in New Orleans was I wanted to be like Drew,” Bridgewater said. “I had to do everything Drew did in order to have success like Drew, but eventually I learned that Drew Brees is Drew Brees. I’m Teddy Bridgewater. I’m coming into the situation, ‘Cam Newton is Cam Newton. I’m still Teddy Bridgewater.’ I can’t go out there and try to be something that I’m not. I play the game the way I play it. I carry myself the way I carry myself. I’m going to live and die by that.”
Bridgewater is heading into his seventh season in the NFL having played 44 career games, going 22-12 as a starter with 38 touchdown passes, and 7,652 passing yards. Minnesota picked him 32nd in the 2014 draft from Louisville. He earned a Pro Bowl nod in 2015 and took the Vikings to their first NFL North title since 2009 with an 11-5 record. Then a non-contact play led to a torn ACL, structural damage and a dislocated left knee not even 30 minutes into a practice.
Jump to 2018 when Bridgewater found himself as a backup to Brees in New Orleans. There he would learn from and form a bond with a young assistant named Joe Brady. Bridgewater credits Brady for not just getting him up to speed on the game but helping him develop as a player and preparing him for his opportunity, which came when Brees injured his right thumb against the Rams last season. Bridgewater took the Saints to a 5-0 mark as a starter, finishing with 1,384 passing yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions. Now he and Brady are reunited, not as backup and lower-level assistant coach, but as starting quarterback and youngest offensive coordinator in the NFL.
“Being familiar with this system has been huge, especially with us not being able to meet in person for OTAs throughout the spring,” Bridgewater said. “I had an opportunity to get with the guys and reiterate the language, go over installs with the guys prior to training camp. Having that comfort level, that experience in this offense has been a huge head start for us.”
Bridgewater’s first season with the Panthers is an unprecedented one. The coronavirus remains a concerning part of daily life, not just for players, but for their families and loved ones. Bridgewater organized a three-day minicamp of sorts with the offense in Charlotte to compensate for the time COVID-19 took away from typical team organized activities.
“If I’m a young guy coming into the league right now, it hasn’t been ideal with the pandemic and everything, but this is an opportunity virtually to show I’m really locked in, and I’m really willing to give my all to the organization,” Bridgewater said. “Whether it’s in meetings virtually when a coach asks you a question and responding with confidence and conviction. That shows that you’re studying. That’s huge.”
As other sports that have returned to the court, field and track, social justice is a topic of discussion in the NFL. Bridgewater hasn’t decided on a public display yet, but he’s reached out to the family of George Floyd, whose killing by Minneapolis police was launched national protests and a reckoning over race in America.
“I’m leaning toward kneeling, but it’s a decision I’ll make,” Bridgewater said. “I don’t want to sit here and say I’ll do this or do that. I was able to contact [Floyd’s] family directly and do some things for them. When that time comes [to protest], it will be the decision that I make.”
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