Bridgewater working self-improvement program

Teddy Bridgewater appreciates all the nice things people say about his rookie season, but he’s focusing on improving his play and making a playoff push.

Teddy Bridgewater had an impressive rookie season, but he is far from satisfied.

After receiving his fan-voted Pepsi Rookie of the Year Award at the Super Bowl, he said his Minnesota Vikings coaches told him he needed to take some time off and give himself a break. He did. For a short time.

And then Bridgewater began his self-improvement program.

“I left a lot of plays on the field last year but I’m always trying to get better,” he said. “I appreciate people saying that I had a good rookie season, but I know that if I play at that same level we’ll be 7-9 again and that’s not good enough.”

So Bridgewater organized a get-together with some of his teammates in California, thanks to the hosting abilities of tight end Kyle Rudolph. Rudolph and some Vikings receivers got together in California for workouts and general bonding time.

“He’s a guy that’s come in from Day 1 and been that mature guy,” Rudolph said of Bridgewater Monday after an offseason conditioning workout at the team’s Winter Park headquarters. “By him getting the guys together and asking me if we could go out to California and if I’d mind hosting everybody out there and getting a group of us together to have fun, spend a little bit of time away from here together, but also to put in some work, we threw it around a little bit but mainly just had fun and got to know each other.”

Bridgewater was lauded last year not only for his play on the field but also his poise and work ethic. He quickly adapted to the offensive system employed by Norv Turner and thrived, despite injuries and poor play hurting his protection and without the services of star running back Adrian Peterson.

Bridgewater attended Peterson’s birthday party last month, but he declined to give details on the status of the running back who has indicated an uneasiness about returning to the Vikings.

Instead, Bridgewater remains focused on himself, not as much on the players that may or may not be surrounding him.

He said he is “bigger and stronger” than he was last year, with a full offseason to concentrate on a strength program the Vikings staff laid out for him in the offseason. He declined to say how much bigger or stronger he is, but that was one of his focuses for the early part of the offseason.

Instead of training for drills specifically designed for the NFL Scouting Combine or working out for NFL teams before the draft, this year Bridgewater was able to relax a little and rejuvenate his body before starting a new routine.

“It’s definitely the first time in a long time (for a real offseason) and that was great being (in California), relax some. If you think about it, the rookies on this team and the rookies in the league last year, we’ve been going since college since our college training camp. We haven’t really had a full break,” he said. “So this offseason it was great to get some down time, but I also took advantage of it in lifting weights, working out with different guys.”

He said the strength coaches were “pretty impressed” with him upon his return, but it wasn’t just about lifting weights over the past four-plus months. His focus now?

“Being quicker and hitting those deep balls and letting the team work on it,” he said. “Like I said, I can’t dwell on last year. Everybody said I had a decent year, but if I play that way this year we’ll be at home in January again.”

He’s hoping the addition of speedy receiver Mike Wallace gives him more opportunities to improve his deep passes. But it’s clear Wallace is impressed with Bridgewater, too, both on and off the field.

“Great guy. Always happy. Always smiling. Talking a lot,” Wallace said of his new quarterback. “Just getting to know him … Teddy just seems like a great guy. I know a lot of different people who’ve worked with him, different wide receivers, tight ends, a lot of guys from down south who know him. Everybody always says great things about him: ‘You’re going to love him.’ Has a nice arm. Just a great guy overall. All positive. Not one negative.”

Just don’t expect Bridgewater to live on the accolades. He’s found plenty of negatives in his game, even if others are reluctant to point them out.

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