Training camp starts this week/ weekend (OH DEAR G-D IN HEAVEN THANK YOU) for the Minnesota Vikings, and with the opening bell of that comes also the beginning of one of the biggest post-draft issues of our offseason: the quarterback competition, and who will be our starter come Week 1 at St. Louis. (SPOILER ALERT from my imminent prediction piece: we play football.)
In theory we have three vying for the top spot: veteran Matt Cassel, rookie Teddy Bridgewater, and dude who's married to a hot chick Christian Ponder. But in reality, and we even saw this in earlier off-season first team reps, it's between Cassel and Bridgewater. Bridgewater is arguably the most pro-ready QB taken in the draft, but there is a lot of hubbub over the idea that the Vikings will opt to sit him for at least part of the season while Cassel manages the team.
As it stands right now, I'd argue there are equal chances between the veteran and the rookie, but we'll know the answer likely by the third game of the preseason (at the latest, in my opinion). And while we will all debate ceaselessly over the merits of one QB over the other (and then inevitably support whoever the second stringer is because hey, it's a Minnesota tradition), there's one notable voice who currently wants no part in the discussion: Teddy Bridgewater.
When asked today about that, Bridgewater said:
"That's something I don't feel comfortable talking about. I'm just looking forward to training camp. Can't wait to get to Mankato, put the pads on and just continue doing what we've got to do: play football."
Normally we all expect fire and brimstone from a quarterback vying for a shot at the starting role, but I fully understand Bridgewater's stance here. First off, Bridgewater isn't going to be an off-the-field Peyton Manning (or Payton Manning, according to ESPN) anytime soon, chock filled with witty quotes and wise musings while hosting SNLs and every other commercial during football season. He's a bit awkward in front of the camera and doesn't strike me as a guy who likes to be put on the spot for a quote. In all likelihood he is aware of this and will probably dodge the situation whenever possible, like many people who are worried about not saying ‘the right thing' when forced to answer a question. Frankly, I see no difference between his answer and the boiler plate ‘so-and-so is a great competitor and I'm just looking forward to the competition' response given by basically every other QB in the same situation.
Plus we all know Bridgewater's work ethic is a thing of legend. And for someone who actually enjoys putting their nose to the grindstone and perfecting their craft, it's reasonable at times to expect they really don't care talking about it- they want to just do it.
Comfortable talking about it or not, I fully believe Bridgewater a.) has every intention of winning the starting job in time for week one, and b.) that he also truly believes already that he will win it. His focus right now, as shown by his quote, is to get to it and prove just that. Saying he will or won't win the job or saying he wants the competition or not won't matter one bit; the only thing that matters is what he does on the field in training camp and the preseason.
I already anticipate the Bridgewater-haters (and why they exist is still beyond me, but whatever) will latch onto this as ‘proof he doesn't have fire, and that he's not a leader' and that we should have drafted Johnny Manziel- because by G-d does drinking champagne on an inflatable swan and rolling up bills in, ah, mysterious ways PROVE he has the will to win. (Low hanging fruit there? Sure. Do I care? Nope.) But as another famous Teddy, Teddy Roosevelt, once famously said: "walk softly and carry a big stick". We can pour over QB quotes all we want right now to prove ‘who has it and who doesn't', but all that matters is what they end up doing on the field.
And I still fully anticipate Teddy Bridgewater smashing the rest of the NFL over their collective heads with a big stick come real NFL time.