Current and former athletes, marketers and handlers hustled briskly from spot to spot on Mall of America's Super Bowl radio row Thursday, promoting everything from deodorant to toilet paper to jewelry.
The claustrophobia was matched only by the pace and the search for successful product placement. Most of it was done with understanding and reasonable intentions, but it certainly adds to the corporate feel of America's largest sports event.
The antidote arrived Thursday morning, though, with the fresh faces of Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and his girlfriend, Erika Cardona. They sat down quietly at the Star Tribune table, having just arrived on the row and looking a bit overwhelmed.
They were promoting something, sure, but get this: It's a children's book titled "Little Bear Teddy," authored by Cardona that is, in fact, inspired by Bridgewater's rise to the NFL.
Cardona said she's had the idea for several years but decided to start the project after Bridgewater's major knee injury before the 2016 season.
"It helped us actually get through the injury. When he got injured I got injured because I had to see him go through that," Cardona said. "[Teddy] was never really too high, never really too low. That's just how Teddy is. Even in the lowest points, he's trying to remain positive and calm."
That mentality is conveyed in the bear character in the book.
"A lot of people who know me consider me an old soul and guy with a lot of wisdom," Bridgewater said. "I credit that to my grandmother. I was at one point the youngest grandchild. My mom would work, my cousins would go to school, my brother and sister would go to school, and I'd be left with my grandparents. I think I inherited a lot of her traits. And watching my mom and what she went through it helped me develop the mentality to always be positive."
Bridgewater missed all of 2016 and most of 2017, but he said the biggest hurdle during the Vikings' 13-3 season — a year in which he returned but was relegated to backup duty before being deactivated in the playoffs behind Case Keenum and Sam Bradford — was mental.
"Just knowing that I could only control the things that were in my control. I can't worry about oh, man, I feel good. Why am I not out there?" Bridgewater said of the mental challenges he faced. "Each day I had to maintain the right mind-set that it's not about me. … I had to control the competitor in me. As a competitor you want to be out there."
That was made easier by what Bridgewater called a "special season" and a great group of quarterbacks who bonded in a unique way. That said, with Keenum, Bradford and Bridgewater all slated to be free agents next season, there are numerous questions about the future.
"Right now I'm just focused on becoming a better person and a better football player. ... I'm looking forward to this offseason just training and taking my game to another level," he said. "I'm healthy. I don't really like putting numbers on it. It's all mental. I feel great. I think the doctors wouldn't have cleared me if I didn't feel great. It was great that I was able to overcome everything and I'm just looking forward to the future."
Bridgewater and Cardona, by the way, had their first date as sophomores in high school in Miami. In an era of technology, Bridgewater went analog with his first move.
"He wrote a note and it was like, 'Will you go out with me? Check yes or no," Cardona said. "I checked yes and he wore it around his ID tag for the rest of the day."
"Old school. Old school," he said. "That's my grandparents. Old wisdom."