'Like one of the old practice days:' How Teddy Bridgewater fared against his former team
NEW ORLEANS -- By some measure, this felt like old times for Teddy Bridgewater.
The New Orleans Saints quarterback saw the familiar purple helmets and jerseys across the line from when he started two seasons for the Minnesota Vikings -- back before a severe knee injury in 2016 changed the course of his career.
Now readying for a second season with the Saints, Bridgewater played his first preseason game for New Orleans since the late-August trade last year brought him there.
"It didn't feel too strange," Bridgewater said about facing his former team Friday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. "It actually felt like one of the old practice days, but (with) a game-like tempo. I still remember some of their calls, still remember some of their looks and stuff like that -- a plus for me. It felt like one of the old practice days."
Most beneficial for Bridgewater was his continued understanding of the offense Drew Brees has perfected since he and Sean Payton arrived in 2006.
Bridgewater played the entire first half and completed 14 of 19 passes for 134 yards with a touchdown and zero interceptions, good for a 110.4 passer rating. The Saints scored on three of Bridgewater's four possessions, twice settling for field goals before an 18-yard scoring pass to Dan Arnold with 44 seconds left in the first half.
"We want to score seven points instead of three," Bridgewater said. "Whenever we can put points on the board, that's a plus."
The Saints nearly had a touchdown on the opening drive. Zach Line drew a holding penalty as Alvin Kamara scored a touchdown on first-and-goal from the 3. Three plays later, Minnesota cornerback Xavier Rhodes knocked down Bridgewater's third-down pass to Michael Thomas in the end zone, and Wil Lutz came on for the first of his four field goals.
Late in the half, the touchdown drive began with 1:46 left in the half. On the first play, Bridgewater threw a 32-yard pass to former LSU track athlete Cyril Grayson Jr. along the right sideline.
"To be able to rep two-minute in actual game, that's a plus," Bridgewater said. "A great opportunity to learn for a lot of these guys. When you look around the league a lot of games come down to the two minute drive. To be able to get points there, that was good."
Bridgewater began training camp in July with a slightly changed mindset from when he went through his first season and spring training program with the Saints. Back then, he found himself trying to replicate everything Brees did. Until finally, something had to change.
He had to be himself again.
"I had to take a step back and just tell myself, 'Hey, I'm not Drew,'" Bridgewater said. "But Drew is the standard. So with that mindset, it's like, 'Hey, you're chasing the standard. You're chasing excellence.'
"At the same time, you have to be yourself. When I'm in there, I try to do things the way Drew would do it but put my own spin on it."
Arnold saw the difference in Bridgewater even before the former first-round selected quarterback threw the touchdown pass late in the first half.
"The biggest thing was him breaking the huddle, being positive: 'We're ready to march down the field and score,'" Arnold said. "He had that swagger to him. ... Definitely, you could tell he was ready to go put the ball in the end zone."
Payton also noted the confidence.
"I felt like he was comfortable," Payton said. "And he got the ball to the right guy pretty quickly."
For Bridgewater to thrive in a preseason setting is nothing new. He did it last season with the New York Jets. But with then-rookie Sam Darnold emerging as the starting quarterback, the Saints made a trade.
Now more than ever, the payoff seems to have benefited Bridgewater and the Saints equally -- giving the player and team both something to gain.