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Bridgewater Feeling Blessed, Ready to Apply Lesson He Learned in New Orleans

Veteran quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is vowing to stay himself as he prepares for his first start for the Miami Dolphins
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Veteran quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has one clear goal in mind this week as he prepares for his first start for the Miami Dolphins.

Beyond the obvious of getting himself ready to face the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium, Bridgewater believes there's something equally important, something he learned the last time he made a start because of an injury to a starter — early in the 2019 season when he was backing up Drew Brees for the New Orleans.

"Honestly, just be yourself," Bridgewater said before practice Wednesday. "I can't be Tua. I had to learn a lesson when I was in New Orleans. I couldn't be Drew Brees. So it's like, as long as I continue to be myself, the guys realize, man, this guy isn't fake. And he's not trying to be something he's not. It's like it's a sense of relief. Like OK, yeah, we know we're getting the real version of him. It's not trying to be something he's not. And that's just my approach every day."

Bridgewater had great success during his stint replacing Brees in the lineup in that 2019, leading the Saints to a 5-0 record before Brees returned from his thumb injury.

Bridgewater said that experience will serve him well this week as he prepares to replace the injured Tua Tagovailoa in the Dolphins lineup.

"It gives you a ton of confidence, just having been through this before, as far as coming in or entering the game late or all type of scenarios I've been through in my career," Bridgewater said. "And it's like, experience is life's best philosopher. So I've had some experience, and I'm just looking forward to this opportunity that the guys, this team, we get moving forward this weekend."

That 2019 New Orleans team featured star players on offense like Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas, to name two, so Bridgewater had a lot of help in keeping the offense producing.

The same certainly applies to this 2022 Dolphins offense, among the most explosive in the NFL thanks to the presence of game-breaking wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.

"Man, there's so many weapons on this team,' Bridgewater said. "And I honestly think believe is the most firepower that I've ever been around. So just the combination of talent, the guys' skill sets, the mental capacity of being able to retain information and go out and execute at a top-notch level, it wows me every day."

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FOR EVEN MORE COVERAGE ON THE MIAMI DOLPHINS, CHECK OUT SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S MIAMI DOLPHINS PAGE ON SI.COM

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DOLPHINS WILLING TO PAY FOR BACKUP QB

Bridgewater replaced Jacoby Brissett as the Dolphins backup quarterback this year, with Miami signing him to a one-year, $6.5 million fully guaranteed contract.

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It's the third-largest yearly average for a backup quarterback in the NFL, behind only Sam Darnold of the Carolina Panthers and Jimmy Garoppolo of the 49ers. But Darnold is playing on the fifth-year option of the rookie contract he signed with the Jets in 2018, while Garoppolo has been the 49ers starter for several years before they turned to Trey Lance this season — though Garoppolo is back in the lineup with Lance out of the year with an ankle injury.

So, in essence, the Dolphins paid more for Bridgewater than any team paid for a backup quarterback in 2022.

Head coach Mike McDaniel said before practice Wednesday that having someone like Bridgewater as a backup is well worth the price.

"It's everything," McDaniel said. "That's why you go out in free agency and spend a nice little chunk of the salary cap on a guy that on paper isn't supposed to play. The quarterback's job is to make his teammates better. If you operate and they are better because of you, you're doing a good job of playing the position of quarterback because you have the ball in your hands every play, and you have to give it to somebody. And you also have to have players play together around you.

"Teddy has already made all of his teammates better on this Sunday coming in the future, simply by how he's conducted himself, how he's owned the offense. ... To have not only his past history help him but everything he's done in the building, it's a huge, humongous deal. So feel very, very fortunate to have Teddy. Tua will tell you himself and Skylar Thompson), the whole room is better at their jobs because of Teddy."

BRIDGEWATER AND THE JETS CONNECTION

Bridgewater's NFL career has been quite a journey since he was a first-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings in the 2014 NFL draft, and it came at a major crossroads when he sustained a devastating knee injury (torn ACL, dislocated knee) in August of 2016.

After missing all of 2016 and pretty much all of 2017 (his played nine snaps in a December), Bridgewater still faced a lot of uncertainty when he became a free agent in the spring of 2018.

And it was the New York Jets, the team he will face Sunday, that gave him a chance when they signed him to a one-year contract. The Jets ended up trading Bridgewater to the Saints at the end of August, setting up his two-year stint in New Orleans.

But if anyone thinks Bridgewater has any bitterness toward the Jets, the opposite is true.

"Yeah, I spent OTAs and a training camp with the Jets, but I look at it as like they helped save my career," Bridgewater said. "When I signed with the Jets, it was really like on a tryout basis, almost like with Todd Bowles, the head coach, and J. Mell (John Mellody), the trainer, he helped me get back to my old self. Todd Bowles, his charisma, his energy just helped me continue to just get that confidence back in myself. And then when he traded me, I was like, hey, you know, everything happens for a reason. So I understand the nature of the business. I don't take anything personally."

Besides, the way Bridgewater looks at it, every game he plays these days, every start he gets is a bonus considering how his career easily could have been ended by that 2016 knee injury.

It's why he savors every opportunity, like the one he's been presented this week.

"I just take it one day at a time because at the end of the day, I look at all this as a blessing," he said. "And like me standing here before you guys (in the media), me getting an opportunity to still play this game, now there's been so many instances in my career where I probably could have never played again. So every day that I get to step into this facility, be around the guys, this coaching staff, just the support staff, the crew in the cafeteria, it's all just something that I soak in because it's a blessing."