Teddy Bridgewater is no stranger to the rise and fall of stardom in the NFL.
The former Minnesota Vikings first-round pick was a Pro-Bowler in his second year, leading the Vikings into the postseason as the team felt it had found its next franchise quarterback.
But after nearly losing his leg to a potentially career-ending injury, he began a long road to recovery — missing nearly two full seasons, bouncing around the NFL as a backup and now becoming the starting quarterback of the Carolina Panthers.
He shared a one-second clip with a motivational message that encapsulates his comeback.
Came back from this just to lay down…? You out your damn mind. pic.twitter.com/rQGkr9HcQ5
— Teddy Bridgewater (@teddyb_h2o) July 3, 2020
Bridgewater is seen walking on crutches after a surgery he had to treat the non-contact hamstring injury that nearly cost him his leg almost four years ago. He tore his ACL and dislocated his knee in a freak accident during a Vikings practice a week before the start of the 2016 season.
Bridgewater spent two years rehabbing his leg and played just nine snaps in one game with the Vikings before he was signed by the New York Jets in 2018 and eventually traded to the New Orleans Saints that August.
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Teddy Bridgewater Keeps the New Orleans Saints on Course
Bridgewater was considered a third-string or backup quarterback with the Jets and was figured to be buried behind Drew Brees when he arrived in New Orleans. Brees has been one of the most durable quarterbacks in the NFL, playing 15 or 16 games in every season since 2004.
But when Brees suffered a thumb injury in Week 2 last year, Bridgewater was given the reigns of a Saints team that had high expectations after missing the Super Bowl by an overtime field goal in 2018. Bridgewater did not waver.
He went 5-0, completing 69.7 percent of his passes and throwing 9 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, setting the Saints on course for another trip to the playoffs after Brees’ return. The Saints were knocked from the postseason in overtime for a third consecutive year by the Vikings.
When Brees announced he would return to play in the 2020 season, the writing was on the wall that Bridgewater’s time in New Orleans would end. He was signed by the Panthers, a move that was met with mixed reviews by Panthers fans.
Rebuilding in Carolina
While the Panthers franchise is just about on opposite poles as the Saints — firing their longstanding head coach Ron Rivera and releasing Super Bowl quarterback Cam Newton in the same three months — Bridgewater will have a chance to build something of his own entering his seventh season in the NFL.
Bridgewater, drafted to be a game manager, saw success early in his career in a run-heavy Vikings offense featuring Adrian Peterson. He reemerged with the Saints taking a similar approach with running back tandem Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray.
In Carolina, his new best friend will be scatback Christian McCaffrey, whose 2,392 yards from scrimmage was the third-most in NFL history in 2019. The Panthers decidedly showed it would build the franchise around McCaffrey after paying the fourth-year running back a $16 million annual salary, the highest salary in NFL history at the position.
Bridgewater has signed to a three-year $63 million deal this offseason. And while the Panthers offensive line needs improvements to protect their investment in the backfield, Bridgewater is now in a position to build upon a career he started in Minnesota.
Follow Trevor Squire on Twitter: @trevordsquire