BOZICH | From first round to ? for Bridgewater, Pryor, Smith - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | For Louisville's Bridgewater, Pryor, Smith, NFL challenge grows

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Former U of L quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will answer questions from the media for the first time in 11 months Thursday. Former U of L quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will answer questions from the media for the first time in 11 months Thursday.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Teddy Bridgewater is scheduled to speak to the media Thursday for the first time in about 11 months. Expect Teddy to become The Big Story in the NFL.

The Q & A, scheduled for 12:30 p.m. (EDT), will focus on Bridgewater's return from the devastating knee injury he suffered in training camp last August.

Will Bridgewater attempt to play this season or simply rehab? What's the prognosis for returning to 100 percent efficiency? What are his long-term health risks if Bridgewater reinjures the leg?

Have doctors explained why his knee collapsed in a non-contact situation?

Here is a question that will not be asked but would play in the Louisville area:

Has Bridgewater spoken with his two former University of Louisville teammates who were selected before him in the First Round of the 2014 NFL Draft?

Do they have a great understanding and appreciation for how fragile and difficult it remains to establish a long-term career in professional football?

Because it certainly is.

Ask Bridgewater, who moved from Face of the Vikings to Mr. Uncertain after one bad step. He was selected with the 32nd pick of the first round by Minnesota three years ago after his remarkable career at U of L.

Ask defensive end Marcus Smith, who was cut by Philadelphia Wednesday and labeled one of the Eagles' five-worst first-round picks of all time by one critic (the link). Smith was selected with the 26th pick by Philly.

Ask Calvin Pryor, the safety the New York Jets shipped to Cleveland, the franchise where NFL careers go to die. There is no promise Pryor will start for the Browns -- three years after he was the 18th overall pick, ahead of pro bowlers Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Derek Carr.

Nos. 18, 26 and 32, fighting to hold spots in the league, a powerful local reminder that the projected average NFL career of 3.3 years is not #FakeMath.

Bridgewater, of course, has been the most productive player in the group, leading the Vikings to the 2015 NFC North title. With Bridgewater running the show, the Vikings were a safe pick to return to the playoffs and win one, two or even last season.

Didn't happen.

Bridgewater did not play a snap. He dislocated his left knee and reportedly tore several ligaments during a non-contact drill at camp. The injury was so disturbing the Vikings canceled practice. They were motivated to acquire Eagles' quarterback Sam Bradford. Bridgewater's teammates were uncomfortable discussing what they saw on the practice field.

Bridgewater has shared several posts on social media. He was seen working out with former U of L teammate DeVante Parker in Miami. There have been encouraging signs.

But he has declined all interview requests.

Until Thursday.

Pryor is a mystery. At Louisville, he was a huge hitter who played a fierce, confident, intimidating style. With the Jets, he started 44 games over three seasons but delivered just two interceptions and became expendable after the team drafted two safeties last spring.

According to this New York Post story, Pryor struggled in coverage and created questions about his attitude. The Jets declined to pick up his 2018 option and wanted to dump his salary.

He was traded to Cleveland, which finished 1-15 last season. Some pre-season depth charts project Pryor as the starter at strong safety, others list him behind Jabrill Peppers, a rookie from Michigan. Calvin Pryor has work to do to establish himself as a solid NFL player.

If Pryor has had a struggle, Smith has faced an ordeal. In three seasons with the Eagles, Smith never started a game. He exited Philadelphia with 12 career tackles while earning about $6.24 million in that period.

The Eagles had a strange game plan to develop Smith, shuttling him between spots at linebacker and defensive end. He failed to produce at any of those positions. People wondered what happened to the guy who excelled rushing the passer at Louisville.

On Wednesday, Smith was cut, freeing him to make a deal with another NFL team. His NFL future is nearly as uncertain as it was when Smith arrived at the University of Louisville as a high school quarterback from Columbus, Ga.

In the NFL, there is guaranteed money but not guaranteed success, even for first-round picks. Ask Teddy Bridgewater, Calvin Pryor and Marcus Smith.

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