EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — When Mike Wallace discovered he was being traded to the Minnesota Vikings, one of the first thoughts for Minnesota’s new receiver was an offense being built around rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
Wallace said he saw the way Bridgewater developed at the end of last season, such as when Bridgewater went 19 of 26 for 259 yards passing, two touchdowns and one interception in a loss against Wallace’s Miami Dolphins in December.
In the same huddle for Vikings organized team activities Wednesday, the full scope of Bridgewater’s aptitude comes into focus for Wallace.
“Composed guy, fun guy; he’s having fun out here,” Wallace said after Minnesota’s second practice of OTAs. “Has control of the offense; accurate guy, man, silent killer.”
The silence was a trademark for Bridgewater last season, the rookie working quietly on his craft and leaning on his veteran teammates. Bridgewater was biding his time, waiting his turn as a leader even though his role as starting quarterback inherently comes with the title and obligation.
Slowly, Bridgewater took on more responsibility after he became the Vikings’ starter in Week 4. By season’s end, the offense was Bridgewater’s.
No longer a rookie, Bridgewater is fully indoctrinated as a team leader.
“The guys kind of push you into that leadership role,” Bridgewater said. “I’m a young guy still on the team, but guys are pushing me forward to say something in the huddle, or break the team down, or break the offense down. That just gives you that confidence in yourself, confidence in your leadership and I’ve been extremely comfortable doing that so far.”
Bridgewater is at ease in his second offseason after being a first-round draft pick. He’s the unquestioned starting quarterback and the face of the organization with running back Adrian Peterson’s status still in question.
Bridgewater started the final 11 games last season. Overall, in 13 games, he completed 64.4 percent of his passes for 2,919 yards, 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
On the practice field, Bridgewater is calm. The work he’s put in shows in the seemingly effortless way he goes about practice. His demeanor has never been showy or erratic but one can sense the comfort and composure as Bridgewater takes the offense through drills.
“I noticed it quite a bit even in phase two, that he was becoming more of a leader and you can tell that this is more of his team as we continue to go,” coach Mike Zimmer said of Bridgewater. “He’s a lot more vocal with the guys, as far as telling them where to go and what routes they should be running. He obviously has a better command of the offense, as well.”
Bridgewater said a second year in the offense and with his teammates allows him to feel more comfortable taking on a leadership role.
“It’s way higher,” Bridgewater said of his comfort level. “Not only because I have a year under my belt, but I know the guys on this team, even though we don’t have all of the same guys on the team from last year, but for the most part, those guys are back. You talk about John Sullivan, Big Phil (Loadholt), Matt Kalil, Joe Berger, those guys up front, Brandon Fusco, those guys continue to give me confidence in myself to lead.”
Bridgewater had a busy offseason. He spent time in time at home in Florida, went to California to work with tight end Kyle Rudolph and teammates and even was part of the Kentucky Derby ceremonies. Time in Minnesota, Florida and California was all spent with an eye on working out and studying the offense.
“It’s hard to never not be pleased with Teddy because he’s such a hard worker,” Zimmer said. “We wanted him to get bigger and stronger, he looks a little bit bigger to me. He’s always worked real hard. The leadership things are starting to come better. I think he’s been doing a good job the two days we’ve been out here against the defense.”