Carolina Panthers

Panthers likely to face new quarterback on Sunday, but he’s not new to everyone

Not even New Orleans starting quarterback Drew Brees knows how many snaps backup Teddy Bridgewater will get in Sunday’s season finale against the Carolina Panthers, but the number will likely be significant.

And for the Panthers, who will themselves start third-string quarterback Kyle Allen in the wake of injuries to Cam Newton and backup Taylor Heinicke, that presents a new challenge.

Well, for some of them.

Offensive coordinator Norv Turner and his son, quarterbacks coach Scott Turner, are actually really familiar with Bridgewater from their time together in Minnesota.

“Teddy, he’s an amazing guy,” Turner said Thursday. “He’s an outstanding football player. We won the division with him in his second year and he played at a really high level.”

Turner coached Bridgewater in 2014 and 2015 in Minnesota. Bridgewater made the Pro Bowl in 2015. The two enjoyed a strong rapport as coach and player, and even, it seems, as friends.

Turner even joked with reporters on Thursday that his wife was pushing him to try to get Bridgewater to join the Panthers.

“She likes Teddy more than I do,” he laughed, “so that tells you something about that.”

Bridgewater hurt his leg in a horrific non-contact incident while with the Vikings in 2016, as he entered his third NFL season. His recovery process has been long and slow.

“Really a freak deal,” Turner said of the injury. “If anyone could get back from it, it was Teddy. And I’m glad he’s healthy.”

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater throws a pass as offensive coordinator Norv Turner, right, looks on during NFL football training camp, Monday, July 28, 2014, in Mankato, Minn. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall) Charlie Neibergall AP

Reciever Jarius Wright also played with Bridgewater — and under Turner — in Minnesota before signing with Carolina in free agency last spring.

“As a player, of course I don’t want to play against him,” Wright said, laughing. “But as a friend, just the long journey that he’s been through, it’s crazy.

“I’ve pretty much seen every one of his debuts, from when he was a rookie, his first game getting a chance to play, to getting back from the injury.”

Bridgewater played two snaps in 2017 after a long recovery, and they were more ceremonial than anything else. But he got a standing ovation from the crowd in Minnesota.

“It was a great feeling (to see that),” Wright said. “It was a great feeling for a friend, for somebody who was always there to support me through my own hard times.

“I saw a lot of his hard times. And it almost made you feel like ‘Rocky.’”

Wright raised his arms like Sylvester Stallone’s famous movie character as he spoke.

“You just want to jump around and throw your hands up.”

Sunday will be Bridgewater’s first significant NFL minutes since 2016.

“I’m so happy, I’m so happy that he gets this opportunity,” Wright said. “I’m just happy to get a chance to see him play again.”

According to reports out of New Orleans this week, Bridgewater is ready to go.

“I never turned it off,” Bridgewater said this week, to Nick Underhill of The (Baton Rouge, La.) Advocate. “Being in the position that I’m in you always have to stay ready. That’s been my mindset since I arrived here. Approach each day with the same mindset that your opportunity can come within a blink of an eye.”

Jourdan Rodrigue: 704-358-5071; @jourdanrodrigue
Jourdan has covered the Carolina Panthers as a beat writer since 2016, and froze during Pennsylvania winters as an award-winning Penn State football beat writer before that. A 2014 graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, she’s on a never-ending quest for trick plays and the stories that give football fans goosebumps.
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