Though not the primary read on the final game-winning touchdown, Teddy Bridgewater told Rodney Smith to “be ready” while in the huddle right before the end zone fade that erased memories of Teddy’s first week performance against the Raiders to create new excitement about the Vikings’ first round pick.
Credit – Vikings.com
While it would be inaccurate to characterize Teddy Bridgewater’s training camp as a struggle, it was clear that he was behind in offensive execution relative to the veteran on the roster, Matt Cassel. And though Cassel’s performance in the last two preseason games has been more than adequate, he hardly creates the excitement among fans that Bridgewater does.
The two-minute drive was framed with repeated crowd chants of “Teddy” as he marched down the field to score the final touchdown of the game. It capped a performance that many think tightens the race between Bridgewater and Cassel, and head coach Mike Zimmer still hasn’t made a formal decision on who the starter will be.
What Teddy primarily points to in his improvement is in being able to play within himself. When asked if he’s put his “overthinking” behind him, Bridgewater said “Yes, I’ve been trying. You know for me, I’m the young guy. A lot has been thrown out there,” he said to a crowd of gathered reporters. “I tend to overthink things. Coach Turner always says, “What did Coach Zimmer tell you? Just do what you do best and play football and have fun.” So today I was able to just come out, play relentlessly, not overthink plays, just trust everything Coach Zimmer tells you.”
Matt Cassel, when asked, pointed to Bridgewater’s work ethic. “Teddy has done a tremendous job throughout the entire camp,” Cassel said. “Ever since he has gotten here he has kept his head down and worked hard. He is a guy who is going to continuously learn and want to ask questions. I think the sky is the limit for Teddy. He just has to continue to push through and work hard.”
There’s an element to having experience under his belt as well. “Last week was a learning experience to get a feel for the game ,” Bridgewater said of his questionable Preseason Week 1 game against the Raiders. “And today I was able to go out there and do what it takes, I knew what it took to game plan and go out into an NFL game and play football. The guys around me did a great job of assisting me and picking up the transition. This week was a smooth week.”
Throughout camp and in these past two weeks, Bridgewater has kept a consistent theme of focusing on team mates. “I have a great group of guys in the QB room who have assisted me along the way,” he said of Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder. “They allowed me to complete my first NFL training camp, those guys have been mentoring me and giving me the knowledge I need to know. They told me no question is a dumb question. I commend those guys for being great mentors to me.”
But it wasn’t just the quarterbacks he went out of his way to mention. “It’s great being able to finish the game that way, but the guys around me made it happen. Talk about great communication in a two-minute situation. Us young guys can learn from Joe Berger, a veteran center,” he said. “Adam Thielen, Jarius Wright, those guys making big plays today. Talking about Kain Colter, making a spectacular catch on the sidelines and getting out of bounds to stop the clock.
“So, it was a great overall performance from the entire unit. Even from the veterans, they were supporting guys coming to the sidelines, they were giving us advice, what to expect on the next series. It was a great team performance.”
And the Rodney Smith touchdown had an element of learning from one’s mistakes as well. The same end zone fade to Jerome Simpson was underthrown and the Vikings had to walk away with only three points on the board. When asked what was different, Bridgewater had the same diagnosis. “With Jerome, I kind of short-handed him. With Rodney I saw that he was a bigger target, I just laid it out for him. I just want to give the guys a chance to play,” he said. After mentioning that he left Simpson short, he continued, “I’ll continue to try and get better in that area. It’s all about capitalizing when you have the chance to score in the red zone.”
That Rodney Smith touchdown had been pre-ordained in the practice week prior. Bridgewater told Smith that should he find himself in man coverage in that situation, that he should expect the ball.
For Rodney, it was nearly inevitable. “He’s a big-time player,” Smith said of Bridgewater. “They drafted him in the first round for a reason and he just showed them that he was worth it.”