Former coach strongly defends Bridgewater

  • Article by: MATT VENSEL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 9, 2014 - 10:41 PM
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Miami defensive back Deon Bush (2) sacks Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) in the end zone for a safety during the first half of the Russell Athletic Bowl NCAA college football game in Orlando, Fla., Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

There aren’t many who know Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater as well as new Texas coach Charlie Strong, who coached Bridgewater at Louisville during his three years there. And he was appalled by some of the remarks made about his former quarterback during the draft process.

“It was just amazing to hear some of the conversations because I just knew his makeup and what type of player he is,” Strong said on a conference call Friday. “Just to see this unfold the last two weeks, I told him the other day, ‘Listen, just be patient. You are who you are. You’ll never change for anyone and that’s why I really respect you.’ ”

Strong, who recruited Bridgewater out of Miami Northwestern High, said it was frustrating to see draft analysts place more weight on his pro day than his three years at Louisville.

Bridgewater didn’t perform well at his pro day after he opted not to wear gloves. Strong wasn’t at the event because he was hired at Texas, but he said Bridgewater always wore gloves at Louisville no matter the weather conditions to get a better grip on the ball.

“He just didn’t make the throws,” Strong said. “I just don’t know what was going on or what exactly happened, but I just know that wasn’t him.

“I just know this: That football team at the University of Louisville knew that they had a chance to win the game when Teddy Bridgewater had the ball in his hands and when he had to come from behind because they knew that he can drive the ball and go for a score. They had that much confidence in him.”

Cool under pressure

With 31 touchdown passes and 9.3 yards per attempt, Bridgewater put up impressive numbers during his junior year. He might have been at his best when defenses sent five or more pass rushers after him.

“One of the things that really stuck out to us of all the quarterbacks is he was the best against the blitz,” General Manager Rick Spielman said. “So he’s very cool and calm under pressure.”

Bridgewater, whose pre-snap prowess drew praise from most draft analysts, completed 70.1 percent of his passes when blitzed in 2013, according to ESPN. He averaged 11 yards per attempt on those plays with 15 touchdowns and just one interception.

“Me just being able to react and see the pressure and everything happening before it happens, I credit that to my film study,” Bridgewater said. “I credit that to my coaching staff and getting me prepared and knowing teams’ tendencies.”

Nothing handed to Barr

On Thursday night, head coach Mike Zimmer said that despite being drafted in the first round, top pick Anthony Barr will have to play his way into the starting lineup. Barr had no problem with that line of thinking.

“It’s my job to earn a spot. Nothing is going to be given to me,” Barr said Friday. “I don’t expect to come in right away and walk into a starting job.”

Barr is expected to at least have a significant role in passing situations when his pass-rushing and cover skills can best be utilized. But he will get a chance to compete for a starting outside linebacker spot.

Option a consideration

After the Vikings traded their second-round pick and their fourth-round pick to the Seahawks for the 32nd overall pick to select Bridgewater, Spielman acknowledged that beyond wanting to secure Bridgewater for 2014, they also wanted to secure him for 2018, as well.

“The other thing that comes into play is that fifth-year option, which is a key part of it as well and that was also a part of the discussion of moving up,” Spielman said.

Under the current collective bargaining agreement that was negotiated in 2011, teams get the option to keep first-round picks for a fifth year at a fixed cost.

Etc.

• Barr was raised in Los Angeles by his mother, Lori. His father, Tony Brooks, was a standout running back for Notre Dame and was drafted by the Eagles in 1992 in the fourth round.

• Barr will wear No. 55. Bridgewater will wear No. 5, his number in college.

• The Seahawks traded the 40th pick they acquired from the Vikings on Thursday night to the Lions, who used it select BYU outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy.

• The pink Cadillac Escalade that Bridgewater gave to his mother was a gift from Cadillac.

• Barr laughed when a reporter asked him if the Vikings might line him at running back, too. “Oh, no. I can’t play offense anymore,” he said. “I think those days are gone.”

  • related content

  • Vikings' top picks experience different drafts

    Saturday May 10, 2014

    Anthony Barr was shocked to be a top-10 pick while Teddy Bridgewater was relieved his wait was over.

  • ‘‘Listen, be patient, you are who you are,’’ said former Louisville coach Charlie Strong about Teddy Bridgewater, above.

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