Teddy Bridgewater, the quarterback of the future, is getting used to being the backup of the present.
While Matt Cassel is getting comfortable as the starter, taking the vast majority of the first-team reps in practice, the 32nd overall pick in May’s NFL draft is forced to take reps of the mental variety. Bridgewater estimated that he is getting about two percent of the first-team reps in practice, so he has to make the most of the ones he gets in individual drills and when running the scout team.
After Wednesday’s practice, Bridgewater was the last Vikings player of the field, and sweat was still running down his face and he was still catching his breath as he started answering questions.
“The preparation, it changes as far as practice because we have to get Matt ready for this upcoming game,” Bridgewater said. “We have to get Matt ready to play. So for me, I won’t be getting as many reps as I received in the preseason. But for me, it’s just taking advantage of those reps that I do get and also giving the defense a good look. I’m out there with the scout team.”
Running the scout team isn’t ideal, because he is running plays from the opponent’s playbook and not coordinator Norv Turner’s. But he said it is helpful in that it allows him to work on fundamentals while going up against the first-team D. He is still tweaking his mechanics, specifically his footwork, so he can play faster, throw on time and get the ball to his receivers before the get out of breaks.
While the competition with Cassel got away from him midway through August, when he struggled during the preseason opener and then threw a few interceptions in the following week of practice, Bridgewater said he learned an important lesson from head coach Mike Zimmer and Turner.
“The biggest thing was that Coach Zimmer and Coach Turner, they were just telling me, ‘Go play football and stop thinking so much and stop overthinking things. Just go out there and use your God-given talent,’” Bridgewater said. “Hearing those words just took a load of my shoulders because as a young guy you think that you have to do everything right. But it reminded me that I’m going to make some mistakes. I’m a rookie. Go out there and play relentlessly and just try to have fun.”
Bridgewater led a game-winning drive in the Vikings’ second preseason game and finished the preseason with an impressive 111.2 passer rating. He threw five touchdowns and no interceptions.
“I felt pretty good. I felt good because I made progress,” Bridgewater said of play in the preseason. “But I still have a lot to work on. My work is never done and I’m never satisfied. So I was pretty happy with my performance throughout the preseason, but I know that I still have a lot to learn.”