Bridgewater: Award validates rookie season

Teddy Bridgewater said winning the Pepsi Rookie of the Year is his greatest award to date, but only the beginning of bigger things ahead.

PHOENIX, Ariz. – Minnesota Vikings rookie Teddy Bridgewater brought home the fan-voted version of the rookie of the year award, the Pepsi Rookie of the Year, on Friday night at the Phoenix Art Museum two days in advance of the Super Bowl in Phoenix.

Standing on the blue carpet at the event Friday night, Bridgewater said he was surprised, but thankful, for the award.

“It means a lot. I’m very thankful. This is a fan-vote award. I’m just thankful for all the fans that voted, everyone that made this happen,” he said. “I’m thankful for all the fan support that I have, thankful that I have great teammates.”

Bridgewater was the final pick of the first round in the 2014 NFL Draft and became the Vikings starter in Week 4 after veteran Matt Cassel suffered broken bones in his foot and was out for the season.

He started 12 games as a rookie, leading the Vikings to a 6-6 record in those games, including four come-from-behind victories, tied for the most by any Vikings quarterback.

“The expectation level is very high where we are right now. We’re not satisfied with the 7-9 season,” he said. “I’m not satisfied with the 6-6 season as a starter.”

During his predraft process, Bridgewater experienced the highs and the lows of being under the media microscope. Some draft analysts in the media had him rated as the top value in the first round, but after an uneven pro day his stock fell and the criticisms began in earnest. He said being named the Pepsi Rookie of the Year helped validate his season.

“You look back about a year ago right at this time everyone was saying how bad I was or how good I was. It was all just a roller-coaster, mentally and physically,” Bridgewater said. “But I understand that it’s a process that you’re going to go through. At the end of the day, your play speaks volumes. To be here on this blue carpet today is a life-changing event.”

In his first year in the NFL, Bridgewater completed 259 of 402 passes (64.4 percent) for the third-highest completion percentage among rookie quarterbacks in NFL history. His 85.2 passer rating ranks as the seventh-highest passer rating among rookies in NFL history and was the best for a rookie in franchise history. He led all rookie quarterbacks in 2014 with 224.5 passing yards per game, finishing with 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

He was a two-time Pepsi Rookie of the Week (Weeks 4 and 13) winner in 2014, and his rookie of the year award was the third time a Viking has won it in the 13-year history of the award, joining Adrian Peterson in 2007 and Percy Harvin in 2009. The Vikings are the only team to have multiple winners in the award’s 13-year history.

He ranked the award at the top of his accomplishments.

“Right now, it’s at the top and it’s only the beginning,” he said. “My goal is to continue to grow from here and become a better player and become an elite guy in this league.”

It was the first year of coordinator Norv Turner’s offensive system in Minnesota and Bridgewater is looking to build off the momentum the team gained by winning three of their last five games.

“We have an understanding of what the coaching staff is trying to do here. We have a great understanding of the system now,” he said earlier this month. “It will be pretty exciting heading to this offseason and heading to our second year in the system.

“We have a better understanding of what Coach Turner is trying to do now with this system. It’s going to be a unique thing being able to play your second year with them after playing just 12 games and seeing how good we could be. I think we’re going to be a more aggressive team. We had some success this year in the no-huddle. It’ll be pretty exciting to see where we’re at next season.”

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