Lions new QB Bridgewater eager to mentor, elevate Jameson Williams, other young talent

Detroit News

Allen Park — Teddy Bridgewater didn’t do much during his first practice in a Detroit Lions uniform on Monday, but what he plans to do once he gets acclimated should carry far more value than the $3 million the team is paying him to be Jared Goff’s backup this season.

Bridgewater’s obvious value is as an insurance policy. The Lions have lofty aspirations this season, and if Goff was to suffer an unforeseen injury, few alternatives offer Bridgewater’s resume of NFL experience and success. But even if he isn’t needed for a single snap this season — which isn’t out of the realm of possibility with the typically durable Goff — Bridgewater has every intention of leaving his fingerprints on the future of the Detroit’s roster through aggressively mentoring the team’s younger players.

“I know I won’t play this game forever,” Bridgewater said after Monday’s practice. “There are certain things in life I can’t do forever, so it’s like, man, how can I leave an everlasting impact? How can I prepare the next wave of talent, next wave of athletes for what’s in store? It’s kind of my gift to life. Honestly, just pouring into the younger athletes, the younger players on the team, that’s how I stayed blessed, I feel. That’s how I keep getting opportunities, of course, outside of what I’m able to do as a football player.

“…That’s what it’s all about for me,” Bridgewater said. “And, of course, having success as a player. Those are the life trophies I get. Those are the plaques I get that you don’t see on the walls. It just means a lot for me.”

So what does Bridgewater’s mentoring process look like? Commanding, like in a huddle, he will tell the roster’s young receivers, tight ends and running backs to not leave the field after practice field without meeting with him. Because even though practice is over, for those players, there’s work to be done.

That extra work serves a dual purpose. First, it gives Bridgewater an opportunity to stay sharp, so he’ll be ready if needed. Second, and equally important to the veteran QB, it gives that younger talent a chance to sharpen their skills and work on their craft as they try to better their own careers.

“It’s like getting live reps. I’m trying to get myself ready and they’re trying to continue to fight for a spot on this team,” he said. “It’s just me just going out and (saying), ‘You, come here. You, come here.’ Then you have the ones who want it — those are the ones you bring in a little closer because it means that much to them.”

And even though Bridgewater has only been under contract with the Lions for a few days, he already has eyes on one player he’s eager to work with and elevate to another planen— former first-round pick Jameson Williams.

“He’s a guy that has unbelievable talent, and I want to just push him to those limits he may have never been pushed,” Bridgewater said. “…He’s a guy I really want to see have a long future in this league, because we all know he was a first-rounder for a reason. I just want to challenge him to be the best player he can be, be a true pro. And I’m excited I get to challenge him and really, I’m going to implement some things that are really going to make him hate me. But, it’s going to be great for JG (Jared Goff), it’s going to be great for this offense, this organization. I’m excited about his future.”

Williams, who has had something of a rocky start to his young career, is the type of talent who could help take the Lions to the next level. And if Bridgewater can be a catalyst in helping Williams reach his potential, everyone wins. On Monday, Bridgewater only participated in one 11-on-11 segment, but his first throw, and only completion, was a bullet to Williams across the middle.

Bridgewater should see his practice reps steadily increase in the next couple of weeks, starting with this week’s joint practices and preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. To his credit, Bridgewater has plenty of experience learning new offenses, but offensive coordinator Ben Johnson’s verbiage is admittedly different than anything he’s seen before, so it might take a little time.

Everything else with the marriage seems to be fitting into place. Bridgewater is enamored with the talent the Lions have amassed and has been impressed with the fan base’s enthusiasm, both from his experiences playing here as a member of the Minnesota Vikings to the surprisingly raucous crowd at Friday’s preseason opener.

“You talk about this division, you talk about the way this team finished the season last year, guys are aware of the sense of urgency,” Bridgewater said. “You sense it from not only the players but the coaches as well.”

About the only thing left to figure out is a jersey number. Bridgewater is initially wearing 50, a silly number for a quarterback, but something that should get resolved quickly once the roster is pared down to 53 later this month.

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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