Bridgewater: 'Don't mind waiting' behind Brees
NEW ORLEANS — Teddy Bridgewater and coach Sean Payton both said it was too soon to speculate on whether they might consider extending the quarterback’s one-year contract beyond 2018 after the New Orleans Saints acquired him from the New York Jets in a trade Wednesday.
For now, anyway, Bridgewater said he was more than happy to wait and learn behind Saints starter Drew Brees.
Although Bridgewater, 25, has had only a day to process his second move in six months, he said his first reaction was excitement because he has been studying the Saints’ offense since he was in college at Louisville.
“I definitely don’t mind waiting,” said Bridgewater, who began his career as a first-round draft pick with the Minnesota Vikings in 2014 before a major 2016 knee injury wiped out nearly two full seasons of his career. “For me, I get to take advantage of this opportunity to grow as a man and as a football player.
“I’ve been following this offense since I was in college, and to be able to be a part of it now, it’s a great feeling,” added Bridgewater, who explained that he tried to pick about three quarterbacks and offenses to study each offseason to try to better his own game. “You watch the tape, you look at the numbers and things like that, and you say, ‘Wow.’ It’s an opportunity to be a part of something like that.
“I don’t mind waiting. I get to learn from one of the best players to ever play this game, get to be in the room with a great group of guys, get to learn from Coach Payton. So I look forward to that.”
Bridgewater didn’t play in the Saints’ preseason finale Thursday night, watching from the sideline and talking shop with Brees as the game was going on.
Payton said the Saints did not pursue Bridgewater in March, when he signed a one-year, $6 million with the Jets that included up to $9 million more in “not likely to be earned” incentives based on playing time, yards and touchdowns.
But Payton, who is close friends with Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, said the Saints have always liked Bridgewater. They became even more intrigued by him when they saw how healthy and efficient he looked with the Jets during the preseason.
And clearly the Saints weren’t as enamored this summer with their other backup options — Tom Savage and Taysom Hill — though Payton didn’t spell that out as the reason why they were willing to trade a third-round draft pick to New York for Bridgewater and a sixth-round draft pick.
Asked if the deal was just about improving the backup quarterback position for 2018 or if it was also about getting the chance to evaluate a young quarterback up close, Payton said, “All of the above.”
“You get a young, talented player who is accurate,” said Payton, who talked about “rooting for” Bridgewater from afar while he recovered from his injury. “He’s an outstanding kid — he’s not a kid anymore, but he’s got great makeup, great football IQ. We liked how he played in the preseason. We think a player like that’s valuable. So we’re excited to have him.
“[He makes] good decisions. [He’s] accurate, smart, can move, can make the first guy miss. He’s a winner. He won in college, he’s won in the NFL. I’ll stop there.”
Payton added, “It’s a quarterback-driven league, and we’re excited to have him.”
When asked specifically if he could see the Saints trying to extend Bridgewater beyond this year, Payton said, “We’ll see. We don’t have to decide any of that right now.”
Asked a similar question, Bridgewater said with a laugh, “If we could all predict the future, I think we’d all probably be millionaires or something like that right now. But for me, I just have to live in the now and take advantage of this opportunity I have today. I can’t live too far down the road. I’m gonna continue to grow and want to be the best football player I can be for the New Orleans Saints.”
Bridgewater credited the Jets for being “professional” about the trade. He laughed at the stories about how the Jets were boarding their team buses to travel to their final preseason game when the deal became official.
He said Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan pulled him aside about 30 minutes before the buses boarded and explained to him that there was an offer.
“It’s not like they put me off on the interstate or something like that,” Bridgewater said.
Bridgewater said he tried not to worry about the trade talk this summer and focused on his development. It worked well; he completed 28 of 38 passes for 316 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in the preseason.
Although Bridgewater knew it might take a little time to re-establish himself as a NFL starter, he said he had no uncertainty about his health or ability heading into this summer.
“There was no uncertainty at all,” Bridgewater said. “I had worked extremely hard with the training staff, just trying to get myself back to playing ability. We put the work in, we put the time in, and it showed once the preseason games started.
“I was excited to be able to go out and compete and show off my hard work. And I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to work with those guys in New York, and I’m looking forward to this moment I’m in now.”