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Ed Hardin: Teddy Bridgewater learned his lesson and now teaches young Panthers

Ed Hardin: Teddy Bridgewater learned his lesson and now teaches young Panthers

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Teddy Bridgewater arrived in New Orleans in 2018 believing he needed to re-invent himself to be like someone else. And that someone else was Drew Brees.

“I wanted to be like Drew,” he said this afternoon in a video conference with reporters. “I had to do everything like Drew did to have success like Drew.”

It wasn’t a very good plan, and the irony is now that he’s following Cam Newton at Carolina, he has a chance to do it right.

“Eventually I learned that Drew Brees was Drew Brees, and I’m Teddy Bridgewater,” he said.

He’s already heard the chatter, and he knows Newton’s release was cold-hearted and has left a void and a lot of bitter feelings. Bridgewater knows he has to win over his own teammates first. Winning over Panthers fans will take more time.

“He’s done some great things," Bridgewater said of Newton. “He’s obviously one of the best players to ever play for this franchise. Everyone around here respects him, speaks highly of him. I’m just honored to be following the position he left behind.”

It’s also ironic that he’s been though the same thing Newton is now going through. He was a third-year starting quarterback in Minnesota before a knee injury in preseason put him on injured reserve in 2016.

The Vikings lost faith in him, signed quarterback Sam Bradford and released Bridgewater in the offseason.

“That’s the tough side of this business,” he said. “I had the opportunity to experience that early in my career. Injuries are always unfortunate. How things transpired when I got injured and wasn’t able to return to the driver’s seat, I just said, 'Hey man, I’ve just got to put my head down and continue to work. Eventually, there are 31 other teams that will have the opportunity to fall in love with me all over again.’”

So now, he’s coming into a situation of which he knows both sides.

“I’m coming into the situation with Cam Newton is Cam Newton, and I’m still Teddy Bridgewater,” he said. “I can’t go out there and try to be something that I’m not. I play the game the way I play it.”

Matt Rhule, the Panthers’ new coach, said he’s been impressed by Bridgewater’s work ethic and his willingness to study film.

“He's all football,” Rhule said.

Bridgewater has the advantage of knowing the offense led by new offensive coordinator Joe Brady, the former LSU coordinator who worked with Bridgewater at New Orleans in 2018. Bridgewater has already found himself a field coach, teaching receivers about new routes and new terminology within the new offense.

“I’m the leader of this team,” he said. “I credit Mr. Tepper, Marty (Hurney), Coach Rhule and the coaching staff here. They’ve made this transition smooth. They’ve told me from the jump that hey, this is your team.”

It’s been a long and strange route that landed Bridgewater in Charlotte, and there’s still a long and difficult road ahead. But he’s learned not to emulate anyone else, and he knows who came before.

But the lessons learned along the way have prepared him for this.

“I’m forever thankful of my journey,” Bridgewater said.

Contact Ed Hardin at 336-373-7069, and follow @Ed_Hardin on Twitter.

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