CRAWFORD | Minnesota learning what Louisville knows: Teddy is sp - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Minnesota learning what Louisville knows: Teddy is special

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AP photo. AP photo.
Fans cheer Teddy Bridgewater's first NFL touchdown. AP photo. Fans cheer Teddy Bridgewater's first NFL touchdown. AP photo.
Teddy Bridgewater on his way to be X-rayed for what wound up being diagnosed as a sprained ankle. AP photo. Teddy Bridgewater on his way to be X-rayed for what wound up being diagnosed as a sprained ankle. AP photo.
Teddy Bridgewater cheered on by Minnesota fans after his first NFL start. AP photo. Teddy Bridgewater cheered on by Minnesota fans after his first NFL start. AP photo.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- If you're a University of Louisville fan and you found yourself missing the guy who now wears No. 5 for the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday afternoon, you can be forgiven.

If he was watching, I'm sure Charlie Strong down in Texas was missing him, too.

It'll become more evident as time goes on, but this Teddy Bridgewater guy who was under center here for the past three seasons was pretty special. His old school -- and his old coach -- owe him quite a bit. He'll not be easily replaced, even if others come through who throw for more yards or touchdowns.

In Minnesota on Sunday, they experienced that themselves.

Bridgewater walked off the field after passing for a two-point conversion to complete a game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter of what wound up being a 41-28 victory over Atlanta on Sunday, and a familiar chant began to ring out: "Teddy! Teddy!"

In his first NFL start, the guy who had the lackluster pro day, whose hands were too small, who dropped to the final pick of the first round while talking heads determined he couldn't play in this league, for whatever reason, that same guy completed 19 of 30 passes for 317 yards. He ran for one touchdown and breathed life into a Minnesota team that had begun the season 1-2.

He also injected a new storyline into a franchise that has been stung by child abuse allegations against its leading rusher, Adrian Peterson.

For a while, anyway, Bridgewater claims the spotlight, at least in the Twin Cities, and it's the kind of story the NFL needs, the straight arrow out of Miami's tough neighborhoods with his cancer-survivor mother cheering him on.

Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer already has that notion. A reporter asked Zimmer about Bridgewater's demeanor leading that late-game  go-ahead drive. Zimmer said his demeanor was what it always is.

"Teddy's the same all the time. He's always got the same demeanor," Zimmer said. "He's just, just amazing to be around this kid. He's a good kid. I'm proud he's on my team."

Folks here, too, will tell you, he's as good as his story. He began his NFL season by having a "Thank You" ad placed in the student newspaper at the University of Louisville.

After the win, he deflected attention.

"It was great to get that first win of what looks to be many more, what we hope will be many more," Bridgewater said. "... I didn't end the game the way I wanted to end it, but I'm able to stand here on my own."

"I felt pretty good," Bridgewater said of his first start. "Any time you have over 500 yards of total offense, it's going to be a great feeling. It's a total team effort."

By halftime, Minnesota had 351 yards of total offense -- more than half the teams in the NFL averaged per game over the season's first three weeks, according to The Associated Press. He ran for a 13-yard score in the second quarter to put Minnesota up 21-14.

The only dark cloud over Bridgewater's day came in a sprained ankle he sustained late. An X-ray in the locker room was negative, but Bridgewater was to undergo an MRI later on Sunday. He said he could've entered the game had he been needed, but third-stringer Christian Ponder and the Vikings' defense finished the job.

Bridgewater said he expects to play Thursday against the Green Bay Packers, and harkened back to his U of L experience, when he suffered a fractured wrist and sprained ankle on a Saturday, and came back to lead a double-digit comeback at Rutgers to earn a BCS bowl berth the following Thursday.

"It's going to be very difficult," he told reporters. "This somewhat reminds me of college. I got hurt on a Saturday, and had to play Rutgers on a short week, on a Thursday also. I'll just have to put more time in the training room and try to get ready to play."

Bridgewater became the fourth former U of L quarterback to throw for 300+ yards in his first NFL start, and only the third to win in the effort. Johnny Unitas did it, and Ed Rubbert threw for better than 300 as a replacement player in 1987. Browning Nagle threw for 366 in his first start, for the New York Jets, but lost 20-17.

A good first start is just that -- a good start. It doesn't guarantee longevity, or even that a player will be able to sustain it.

But for Bridgewater, the performance felt good, after many had downgraded his ability coming out of college.

Asked if he thought Bridgewater will play Thursday, Zimmer said: "I assume he's going to play. Teddy's pretty dang tough now."

He's also pretty tough to replace.

Copyright 2014 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved. Quotes provided by The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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