BOZICH | Was This Goodbye? Don't Ask Teddy Bridgewater
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Don't ask Teddy Bridgewater if this was his farewell home game with the University of Louisville football team. He'll pick his way through your questions like a soft cover two defense.
His back might be sore, but his resolve is not. Bridgewater will tell you he did not believe that he should have been included in the Senior Day ceremonies before the Cardinals defeated Memphis, 24-17, Saturday at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. And he wasn't.
He is a junior. Senior Day was for the 18 departing U of L seniors, not a junior, even if that junior is projected to be going, going, gone as one of the top five picks in the 2014 NFL Draft.
But Bridgewater also dodged the question about whether he expected to stay another season and say goodbye to the home fans in 2014.
"I'm up here to talk about the team and today's victory," Bridgewater said. "It's all about the seniors today. It's not about me."
Do Bridgewater's U of L teammates have any sharper insights into the plans of their quarterback?
"I honestly don't ask him at all because we've still got games to play," said receiver Damian Copeland. "I think he's focused on finishing out strong. I don't ask him."
That is the way it's going to be until Louisville completes its regular season Dec. 5 against Cincinnati or its bowl game later this season or Jan. 15, the deadline for juniors to declare for the 2014 draft.
Bridgewater is no more interested in talking about his NFL future than he was in having a Heisman Trophy campaign. There's no "I" in Teddy, and that's the way it is going to remain until he announces his decision.
Bridgewater is so committed to coach Charlie Strong and this program that he didn't even care for a question about the possibility of returning to his home state to play a bowl game in Orlando next month. He reminded a questioner that it is still possible for Louisville to make another BCS bowl if Central Florida finishes its season with two losses.
That's unlikely to happen – about as unlikely as Bridgewater returning for his senior year, regardless of how persistently the quarterback stiff-arms the question. A constant string of NFL scouts and general managers have made their way to Papa John's Cardinal Stadium to watch Bridgewater perform.
The NFL guys don't care that Bridgewater disappeared from the national Heisman discussion about 10 seconds after Louisville lost to UCF last month. The consensus has never changed. He'll be one of the top five picks.
Chew on these numbers: The fifth pick in the 2013 NFL Draft was Ziggy Ansah, a defensive lineman with the Detroit Lions. He signed a four-year contract that guaranteed him about $18.6 million with a signing bonus of $11.9 million.
It's possible to walk away from that kind of money. But it's unreasonable to expect Bridgewater to do it, especially after watching him go down four times on quarterback sacks against Memphis. Bridgewater said his back was sore, but he did not miss any snaps and the Cardinals have 12 days until their next game.
Bridgewater looked his best in the second half when the Cards finally increased their offensive tempo. Bridgewater completed 20 of his first 24 throws. It was vintage Teddy. He threw the ball to 10 different receivers, teaming with DeVante Parker for 39-yard touchdown.
Bridgewater won't promote himself in the Heisman discussion. But his teammates absolutely will.
"I just feel like a lot of people stopped talking about us because we lost," Copeland said. "It's like people were waiting for us to lose so they could stop talking about us.
"I'll say it until the end. He's the best quarterback in the nation. I wouldn't take any other quarterback above him. He's just a pro, the way he goes with his work."
Bridgewater was asked if he ever considered the possibility this performance (26 of 36 for 220 yards and one touchdown without an interception) was his final game for the home fans.
"Not at all," Bridgewater said. "I still feel that we have more games left on the schedule. I have to focus on that."
Somebody reworked the question and attacked from another direction: Did Bridgewater find himself soaking up the atmosphere more than usual?
"Not at all," he said. "I came into the game with the same attitude that I would come into any other game. I was just proud to be out there with those guys again, especially with the seniors."
I warned you that the kid understands how to handle all the defenses – and all the questions.
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