Bridgewater's Not Trying To Fill Cam's Shoes

Jack Duffy

Everyone across the globe has had to improvise in this current day and age of quarantine amid the COVID-19 pandemic, including the media. Thursday afternoon, the Panthers’ new starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater had his opening press conference, his first interview since agreeing to a three-year, $63 million contract with the Panthers. It wasn't your typical introductory press conference with the lights and cameras but rather remotely on Zoom - a video conference call.

Teddy did not allow the unusual circumstances to prevent him from showing his genuine delight for the new opportunity he was given as the new starting quarterback for the Carolina Panthers. But Bridgewater also understood the situation he was brought into.

Cam Newton was a fan favorite ever since being drafted number one overall by the Panthers in 2011. The divorce between Cam and the franchise was not a pleasant one as Newton was clearly unhappy with his release from the team following his rehab from his foot injury.

The Panthers are coming off back-to-back losing seasons and the team has taken an apparent shift towards a rebuild, while also departing from the franchise’s most beloved player. Teddy Bridgewater refuses to listen to any outside noise regarding being Cam’s replacement while also being respectfully cognizant of the current state of the franchise.

“I’m aware of the situation I’m coming into,” Bridgewater said. “I’m coming in to be myself. In New Orleans, I was behind Drew Brees. When he got hurt I knew I had to step in and fill his shoes. So here it’s the same thing. I’m ready for this opportunity… I take pride in winning. Winning feels good and that’s our goal.”

Cam was a very outspoken character both on and off the field. Teddy’s not Cam Newton and he’s not trying to be. He’s his own guy.

“For me, I want to stay within my character,” Bridgewater said. “I’m coming in here trying to be me… I don’t have to be something I’m not. I just lead by example, which is the same way our coaches think.”

Cam Newton was widely known as “Superman” due to the touchdown celebrations he displayed over the years. Teddy was asked Thursday if he had a superhero in mind that he believed he portrayed. His answer was an unexpected one but one that illustrated his hardworking, humble nature.

“Teddy Bridgewater is the OG. Always cool, always calm. He just wants to win… Everywhere I’ve gone I’ve won and I take pride in that. That’s the reason I’m in games, to win. I’ll just leave it at that... I’m just going to tell you right now I’m a winner and plan on continuing to be one. That’s how I’ve become the best version of myself I can be.”

Bridgewater’s journey up to signing his three-year, $63 million contract with the Carolina Panthers last week was not your typical route to a big contract in the NFL. Teddy hit several speed bumps along the way, including a torn ACL and dislocated knee that he suffered in August of 2016 in Minnesota during a Viking’s team practice.

Teddy has come a long way since his non-contact knee injury that some said could have ended his career. He started only two games in the next 32 months following his ACL tear prior to Drew Brees’ thumb injury this past September. Bridgewater made up for lost time and was 5-0 as a starter for New Orleans, proving to the league that he was still a starting-caliber quarterback in the NFL. He recalled on that journey today, saying that the knee injury reminded him that life is a race.

“From the moment I was on the ground screaming in pain it reminded me that this all was a part of the race,” Bridgewater said. “Life is a race and you have to focus on what is in your lane. It was a race I had to finish. I haven’t completed the race but now I’m back in it.

“I take pride in proving people wrong. They told me I would take 18 months to come back from my knee injury. They told me I would not win last year. I won,” Bridgewater said. “I don’t wake up with the mindset that I want to lose. I’m a winner... This is an opportunity for me to grow and compete and prove that I belong in this league.”

Bridgewater believes he has not yet proven himself in the NFL. Being amongst the elite group of quarterbacks in the NFC South in Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Matt Ryan, serves as a grand opportunity for Teddy to validify his game.

“I’m in elite company. I feel like I’m the only one who hasn’t proved himself in this league… I understand what it takes to be a quarterback in this league… I’m thankful for those guys that believe in me.”

Teddy has heard stories about his new teammates. It’s a young team with plenty of unproven talent. The Panthers are at the start of a new era with a new coaching staff and several new faces on the team. Teddy is fully confident in the talent that Panthers’ owner David Tepper and general manager Marty Hurney have surrounded him with and is thrilled to start the journey.

“I’m excited to get out and play with these guys. It was a unique situation with a lot of playmakers, a lot of guys that bring a ton of energy,” Bridgewater said. “I’ve heard stories about how hard Christian McCaffrey works, D.J. Moore, all those young guys. You can go down the list. It’s like a kid in the candy store when you have all those guys you can get the ball to who have been productive in this league.”

Obviously, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he cannot link up with his new teammates and build chemistry during the offseason, but Teddy has exchanged text messages with the guys to make sure they’re staying safe and healthy. Furthermore, he found a unique way to get a better feel for the new guys on the Panthers’ roster by playing Madden, clearly joking, but added that the internet also helps with getting familiar with new personnel. This will be something that he will have plenty of time to do over the course of the next few months.

The transition for Teddy also comes with some familiar faces, specifically with the Panthers’ new offensive coordinator, Joe Brady. Brady spent time with Bridgewater in New Orleans in 2018, the year before Brady left to be the passing game coordinator at LSU.

“We clicked right away,” Bridgewater said regarding Joe Brady. “He was a South Florida guy… He spent a lot of one-on-one time with me after practice and throwing routes to the young receivers.

“We had that relationship intact. When he went to LSU, I was shooting him text messages and watched some of LSU’s games and realized he was using some of the same concepts we were running. So that relationship never ended, and I’m glad that we get to reunite in Carolina.”

The Panthers’ new quarterback is striving to make the most of the current situation without the proper access to adequate training facilities during the offseason. He’s staying in shape by running up and down the three flights of stairs at his house in Miami, while also lifting weights via his squat rack and the extra free weights he has at his disposal.

Teddy made it clear he was practicing social distancing, filling his free time by playing some old video games. He brought out the classic Nintendo 64, playing Mario Cart, along with his PS2 where Bridgewater has every Madden from 2002 to 2012.

It may not be an ideal transition to a new team for Teddy Bridgewater this offseason but Panthers’ fans should be hopeful for their franchise’s new quarterback. Teddy Bridgewater is hungry and eager to lead these young Panthers into a new era.

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