Teddy Bridgewater shows why he’s the perfect veteran backup for the Lions this season

Detroit Free Press

Teddy Bridgewater wasn’t perfect in his practice debut with the Detroit Lions on Monday, and yet he provided the perfect example of why the team invested so much in him to be Jared Goff’s backup.

The highly touted quarterback looked sure of himself while going through drills. But in the brief action he saw during the team portion of practice, he didn’t exactly shred the defense.

On his first pass, Bridgewater threw a wobbler up the middle that Jameson Williams caught for about a 15-yard gain, which earned Bridgewater an immediate slap on his helmet from coach Dan Campbell. His next two passes then fell incomplete, one on a sideline drop by Avery Davis.

But when Bridgewater stepped off the field, that’s when the nine-year veteran shined. That’s when he showed why he’s going to be the prototype backup as an experienced former Pro Bowler who turns 31 soon and accepts his starting days are over and now wants to pass along his knowledge.

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“Honestly, I just think with the talent on his team, the starters on his team, the experience on this team,” Bridgewater said of his reason for signing a one-year deal, “it just felt like a great situation for me to just come in and honestly just be a mentor to some of the younger guys, teach them how to be pros, while also fine-tuning my game.

“I feel like I’ve still got some left in the tank, so it’s a super situation.”

If you had any doubts about who might “win” the backup job, Nate Sudfeld removed any doubt with his disappointing performance in the preseason opener. He struggled to move the offense, overthrew Williams for an interception and underthrew a wide-open Dylan Drummond in the end zone. Sudfeld finished with two picks, no touchdowns and a 45.8 passer rating.

Bridgewater could wear street clothes the rest of the preseason and win the job. If Sudfeld’s struggles weren’t enough, there are also 2.5 million guaranteed reasons Bridgewater’s the lock and has stoked excitement among fans as the most capable Lions backup since Shaun Hill — or perhaps Tobin Rote.

The signing of Bridgewater signals that the Lions are all in, that they’re serious players shooting their cuffs as they push all their chips to the middle of the table. Signing Bridgewater means they refuse to let an injury to Goff derail the team’s brimming promise.

Not that Bridgewater looks at it that way, necessarily. He downplayed how much excitement he felt about his arrival.

“Man, I don’t think about that,” he said. “I just think about how I can help this team, help the younger players, help the quarterback room and just help myself, you know, be the best version of Teddy that I can be.

“I’m excited that the fans are, you know, eager to see this team go out and compete.”

Bridgewater got a brief taste of fans’ fervor Friday at Ford Field. He’ll get a better sense of it when he takes the field for the first time Saturday against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Until then, it’s clear he’s serious about being a mentor. And one of his star pupils could be Williams, whose talent and promise he touted like a sculptor in possession of a great hunk of marble.

“I just want to challenge him to be the best player he can, be a true pro,” Bridgewater said. “And I’m excited that I get to challenge him.

“And really, I’m going to implement some things that’s gonna really make him hate me. But it’s going to be great.”

The rest of the week, with joint practices starting Wednesday against the Jaguars, could determine how much action Bridgewater sees Saturday. Even if he plays sparingly or struggles, remember that he’s not in the same category as Sudfeld. Even though Bridgewater is familiar with the Lions’ system, he’s barely had any practice.

Bridgewater’s grasp of the offense will surely strengthen over the season. But his true value might never be measured on the field, because if everything goes well, he’ll never play a snap. If the Lions end up having a successful season, you can bet Bridgewater’s imperceptible fingerprints will be all over it through his help guide young teammates.

“Those are the life trophies that I get,” he said. “Those are the plaques that you don’t see on the walls. And it just means a lot to me.”

Contact Carlos Monarrez: cmonarrez@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.

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