MINNEAPOLIS — Teddy Bridgewater stopped and talked with quarterbacks coach Scott Turner on his way to the huddle for the first time in an NFL game. The moment the rookie from Louisville had been waiting for his whole life was about to happen.
The Minnesota Vikings’ fans were waiting too.
Before Bridgewater could ever make his first NFL throw — even if it was a preseason game â the crowd chanted, "Teddy, Teddy." Bridgewater is a second-string quarterback right now, but he has the fans on his side.
"Well, usually the backup quarterback is always the favorite guy," Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer quipped after Minnesota’s 10-6 win against the Oakland Raiders. "They should be excited about Teddy. They’re going to be cheering for him for a long, long time."
When those chants will be for a starting quarterback is still unknown, and Friday’s performance in the Vikings’ preseason opener showed the rookie first-round pick who arrives in Minnesota with so many high hopes, isn’t a polished product.
Bridgewater finished 6 of 13 passing for 49 yards taking the second offensive series and playing into the second half. He was sacked twice and fumbled once. He led the Vikings to a field goal on his first drive, playing behind the first-team offensive line and mixing in with the starting receivers.
"I feel like it went pretty good," Bridgewater said. "There were some missed opportunities, but I’ll be able to come back next week and play more aggressive and watch the film and continue to study and get better from here."
Bridgewater’s first game was about more than stats or leading a team. For the coaches, it was a chance for Bridgewater to get over the first-game jitters and experience the NFL.
"I told you guys it would be a dream come true to play that first game," Bridgewater said. "It finally came. It was great to be out there and great to just be able to play football again."
Matt Cassel started and led the Vikings to a touchdown drive by going 5 of 6 for 62 yards. Bridgewater entered on the next series to big applause from the TCF Bank Stadium crowd full of Vikings fans displaced for the next two years while the team’s new home is built to replace the Metrodome.
Bridgewater has heard the excitement from fans for the past two weeks at Minnesota State University where Minnesota holds training camp. He said he didn’t hear the chants Friday night.
"Not at all, I was so tuned into the game that I couldn’t hear anything that was going on around me," Bridgewater said.
His first pass showed the promise which leads many to believe Bridgewater can be a starter in his first NFL season. He sprinted out right on a bootleg and connected with receiver Greg Jennings for 21 yards. The play was nullified because of an illegal formation penalty.
His first actual completion went to Cordarrelle Patterson on a drag route for 13 yards to help set up Blair Walsh’s 30-yard field goal. His sack and fumble, which was recovered by Matt Kalil, on second-and-7 kept Minnesota from adding on more points.
"There was a couple times in the game when he just didn’t act like a veteran," Zimmer said. "Things happened that he hadn’t seen before. So those are all great experiences for him, but he made some great throws. There was a couple mishaps that he had, but I think Teddy’s going to be a great player."
Bridgewater has said adapting to the speed of the NFL is one of his biggest points of transition. The biggest difference Friday?
"The biggest thing was that practice is much harder than the games," Bridgewater said.
Finally fulfilling his dream and with a fervent fan base solidly behind him, Bridgewater says he has no trouble controlling his emotions.
"When you play within your character and play within yourself, things come easily," Bridgewater said. "We have a coaching staff that we have, they make playing come easy where you’re not anxious or anything. Today, it was just great to get out there for the first game and to get a feel of what it’s like to take a snap in the National Football League."