Teddy Bridgewater said starting QB Matt Cassel is getting “98 percent” of the practice reps with the first-team offense, but that isn’t stopping the Minnesota Vikings first-round draft pick from trying to maximize his opportunities to improve.
Bridgewater is relegated to limited first-team reps and plenty of scout-team work trying to get his teammates ready for the regular-season opener against the St. Louis Rams. He hasn’t been in a backup position for years, since the first three games of his first year with the Louisville Cardinals, but Bridgewater is making the best of the situation.
“Right now, we’re getting Matt ready to go play. Matt is in there with the first team. He’s getting about 98 percent of the reps,” Bridgewater said. “I’ll probably come in when he needs a breather or something. Right now, the focus is getting Matt ready to go. For me, it’s just sitting back and taking those mental reps. When Matt’s sitting there going through the play, I’m behind the offense taking a mental rep on air. That’s how the reps have been going. We have to get ready to play a football game, so Matt’s the guy right now.”
Bridgewater had a very solid preseason, connecting on 30 of 49 passes for 283 yards, five touchdowns, no interceptions and a 111.3 rating. He felt good about his performance but continues to work on his mechanics when afforded the opportunity.
“You can say that as far as the footwork and just trying to play faster. The speed of the game is totally different from college. Right now, the speed of the game is totally different than preseason, the intensity is,” he said. “It’s more intense in practice. You can see the practices are pretty up-tempo with Coach (Mike) Zimmer and the guys are flying around. So for me, I just have to continue to polish up on my footwork, just being on time when I’m throwing routes.”
On Wednesday, Bridgewater was the last player to leave the practice field. He spent time throwing to receiver Rodney Smith after practice had ended, then went into conditioning mode, running sprints back and forth across the practice field. And, finally, as a first-round pick at a popular position, found media interest still waiting for him.
“My work is never done and I’m never satisfied,” he said. “For me, I was pretty happy with my performance throughout the preseason, but I know I still have a lot to learn.”
Bridgewater struggled for a stretch during training camp. He started out avoiding an interception in practice for about the first week. Then he hit a patch where he threw five interceptions in two days.
It was a talk with head coach Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner that helped turn a troubled stretch around.
“The biggest thing was that Coach Zimmer, Coach Turner were telling me, ‘Just play football. Stop thinking so much. Stop overthinking things. Just go out there and use your God-given talent,’” Bridgewater said. “Hearing those words, it just took a load off my shoulders because as a young guy you think you have to do everything right, but it reminded me I’m going to make some mistakes. I’m a rookie. Just go out there and play football, play relentlessly and just have fun.”
It could be argued that Bridgewater had a nearly perfect preseason, especially for a rookie. He had a 111.2 passer rating and avoided an interception in four appearances as the most-used of the Vikings’ three quarterbacks.
But trying to be perfect can be paralyzing, too.
“I think that’s part of me trying to be a perfectionist, wanting to be right in every aspect. I have to learn that no man is perfect,” Bridgewater said. “You’re going to have some bumps and bruises, some ups and downs and you’re going to make some mistakes, but it’s all about learning from those mistakes and not making the same mistakes twice.”
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.