Teddy Bridgewater has learned to be a patient man.
It’s been five years since he entered an NFL season as a starting quarterback.
His budding career was sidetracked in August 2016 when he suffered a torn ACL and other structural damage including a dislocation of the knee joint, during a non-contract drill in practice.
He only threw two passes over the next two seasons, and has started just six games in the past four combined with the Vikings and Saints.
But five of those — all of them wins — came last season while filling in for the injured Drew Brees in New Orleans. It was enough to convince Carolina GM Marty Hurney to release longtime starter Cam Newton and sign Bridgewater.
Bridgewater, who is 22-12 as an NFL starter, said he’s “extremely confident” he can get back to the level he was playing at in Minnesota in 2015 — and maybe beyond.
“I’m not a young, rookie signing trying to tell grown men what to do,” he said.
Bridgewater called the knee injury “part of a race,” but insists it won’t define him.
“Life is a race,” Bridgewater said. “We all have to run our own race. Within that race we all have to focus on ... our lane. Me, at the time, I had stumbled in my lane. It is a race I haven’t finished. I’m back in the race, and it’s a great feeling to be back in it.”
In Carolina, he will be reunited with offensive coordinator Joe Brady, with whom he worked closely alongside during the 2018 season in New Orleans.
“Joe is the guy who worked with me after practice, pregame; he’s the guy who took me through drills,” Bridgewater said. “He just stayed after it with me. It’s great to have a guy like him.”
But Bridgewater knows he faces an uphill battle with the Panthers, a team that appears to be in a rebuilding mode.
Bridgewater also will compete in a division that includes three potential Hall of Fame quarterbacks in Tom Brady, Brees and Matt Ryan.”
“I feel like I am the only one who hasn’t proved himself in this league,” Bridgewater said. “I feel like there is an opportunity for me. Being in a division with two guys who won MVPs and two guys who won Super Bowls, that is a great feeling to be among those guys. I just have to work hard to try to get up to those guys’ level.”
Bridgewater disagrees with those who see the Panthers as a non-contender.
“I’m a winner,” Bridgewater said. “Everywhere I’ve gone I’ve won, and I take pride in that. That’s the reason I’m in games, to win.”