FLORHAM PARK, N.J.
The Jets had just finished practicing for more than two hours in brutal heat and humidity, and players trudged off the field holding their helmets, eager for the burst of air-conditioned solace in the locker room. Moments later, Teddy Bridgewater walked back outside, stood beneath a tent in which sweat-soaked reporters had gathered, and flashed a wide grin.
“Some people may say it’s training camp and can’t wait to get to the regular season when things will be easier,” the quarterback said. “I look forward to this. I’m grateful. I get excited every day I get my ankles taped and run out of the locker room and practice, because it was taken away from me for two years. It’s great to just wake up and have an opportunity to continue to do something you love doing.”
On Aug. 30, 2015, while with the Vikings, Bridgewater dropped back to pass in a noncontact drill during practice and crumpled to the turf. He suffered a devastating injury, including a torn ACL and dislocated knee. Had trainers not reacted as quickly as they did, Bridgewater might have lost his leg.
So yeah, practicing for much of the afternoon in temperatures above 90 degrees with humidity nearly that high? That’s a great thing for the 25-year-old quarterback.
“It gives me chills just thinking about it,” he said.
Bridgewater finally made it back to game action last Dec. 17, when he walked onto the field at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis to a standing ovation in the fourth quarter of a 34-7 win over the Bengals.
It was an incredibly emotional moment for Bridgewater, a 2014 first-round pick of the Vikings, who by then was a backup to Case Keenum.
But it was a moment he never doubted would happen.
When asked if he feared he might never play again, he said, “I had nothing but positive thoughts. I wouldn’t allow any negativity to creep into my circle. If I’m negative, I’m going to have negative thoughts and I’m going to hinder my process.”
He took inspiration from his mother, Rose Murphy, who survived breast cancer when Bridgewater was 14. He wanted to quit football to help take care of his mom, but she wouldn’t allow it.
“Her biggest thing was to stay positive,” Bridgewater said. “She said the cancer feeds off negativity. So after her remaining positive with what she went through, I’m not going to allow any negative thoughts to creep in.”
Bridgewater is set to take the field in a preseason game for the first time in nearly three years when the Jets host the Falcons on Friday night at MetLife Stadium. The Jets want to get a good look at Bridgewater and rookie Sam Darnold as Todd Bowles works toward a decision about whether either of them or incumbent starter Josh McCown will be No. 1 going into the regular season.
It’s too early to know which way Bowles is leaning, and even though Bridgewater often is overlooked in the competition, he is very much in the thick of it.
“Work ethic, intelligence, wanting to get better, very accurate, very good on the line,” Bowles said, ticking off the attributes he likes in Bridgewater. “A great team player. I’ve got the best three-quarterback combination I’ve been around. That’s great to have.”
If Bridgewater doesn’t win the starting job, there’s speculation that he might be traded, because Darnold clearly is the quarterback of the future. But the Jets can afford to be greedy when it comes to keeping all options on the table, including keeping Bridgewater and possibly even making him the starter.
“You control what you can control,” Bridgewater said. “For me, it’s coming to work every day and putting forth my best effort. Everything else will take care of itself. For now, I live in the moment and trust the process.”
And enjoy the hell out of playing football again.