Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is back in Minnesota for a few days — just not for the Super Bowl.

“Most guys, you only go to the game if you’re playing in it,” Bridgewater said Thursday. “We’re not playing in it. You don’t want to be there as a spectator.”

He stopped by the Star Tribune’s table on radio row at Mall of America with his girlfriend, Erika Cardona, to chat about “Little Bear Teddy — a children’s book written by Cardona that is, in fact, inspired by Bridgewater’s rise to the NFL. You can watch the full video of their chat here:

“I decided to turn Teddy into a little teddy bear character basically to teach kids that no matter how big your dreams are they can come true,” Cardona said. “It talks about Teddy’s dream as a child and how he wanted to be who he is today.”

Cardona said she’s had the idea for several years but decided to start the project after Bridgewater’s major knee injury prior to the 2016 season. 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 mindset that it’s not about me. It’s about those other guys in the locker room, this team and this organization. … I had to control the competitor in me. As a competitor you want to be out there … I had to understand my role was different and I could still impact the team off the field as I could on the field.”

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.

Bridgewater said he hasn’t started the process of figuring out what 2018 and beyond will look like.

“No, I haven’t. 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.”

Bridgewater grinned. “Old school. Old school,” he said. “That’s my grandparents. Old wisdom.”

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