Why Detroit Lions’ Teddy Bridgewater could be the best thing to happen to Jameson Williams

Detroit Free Press

Ten years into an NFL career that’s been better than anything he could have imagined, Teddy Bridgewater is more concerned with “life trophies” than real ones.

The Lions signed Bridgewater to be their backup quarterback not just because he was one of the top veterans on the market this offseason, but because they wanted him to work with and mentor some of their young players.

“Those are the plaques that you don’t see on the walls,” Bridgewater said Monday after his first practice as a Lion. “It just means a lot to me.”

Bridgewater endeared himself to Lions coach Dan Campbell during their two seasons together with the New Orleans Saints in 2018-19, when he regularly led New Orleans’ young receivers through post-practice workouts.

And he did something similar Monday, throwing routes with undrafted rookie quarterback Adrian Martinez and second-year receiver Jameson Williams, among others.

Bridgewater might help make Martinez into a serviceable NFL backup one day, and he’ll surely have an impact on rookie third-round pick Hendon Hooker, who remains out of practice on the nonfootball injury list rehabbing his college knee injury.

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But it’s Williams who could end up being Bridgewater’s shiniest plaque if the veteran quarterback can help bring out Williams’ prodigious talent.

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

Williams, the 12th pick of last year’s draft, had an uninspiring rookie season and a disconcerting offseason.

He caught one pass with three drops in six games last year and missed most of the season while coming back from his own college knee injury. Suspended six games in April for violating the NFL’s gambling policy, Williams has battled drop problems this summer and had a rocky preseason debut last week against the New York Giants.

Williams caught two passes for 18 yards on seven targets against the Giants, had one bad drop inside the 10-yard line and was the intended target on two Nate Sudfeld interceptions. He also made one highlight-reel catch on a two-point conversion, when he secured a pass with one hand while a Giants defensive back held his other arm.

Williams, who did not talk to reporters after last week’s game, said Monday it felt “good” to make that catch and get back on the field for his most extensive action — 51 snaps — since college.

“It was important to me cause like I said I hadn’t been out and played that many reps in so long, so it was just, I guess it was for me to get my feet under myself and be prepared for like when the time comes,” he said. “I feel like I got out there and did the right thing, lined up well. We got some things to fix for sure, but I think I did pretty well.”

Campbell insisted after the game he was encouraged by Williams’ play.

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The Lions intend to give Williams heavy minutes in their final two preseason games as well, Saturday against the Jacksonville Jaguars and next week against the Carolina Panthers, to help get him ready for his late-October return.

Williams cannot practice with the Lions during his suspension, but can return to the team after three weeks.

“I didn’t go in this game (saying) Jameson, he needs to have 10 catches and 180 yards,” Campbell said. “That was not what I want. I just wanted, man, get lined up, urgency, route definition, detail, finish. And man, I thought for the most part he did that. … I was more positive with the way that he showed up. I thought he did some really good things.”

On Monday, Williams caught the first pass Bridgewater threw during team drills but had an otherwise quiet practice.

He said he’s well aware of the eyeballs that are trained on him every time he takes the field, but unfazed by fans’ expectations for him — good and bad.

“I feel eyes on me, but it comes with everything,” Williams said. “Being drafted high. I wouldn’t say I want the eyes off of me, cause I want them on me. Eventually, they’ll be on me, so I wouldn’t say there’s no pressure or nothing. I don’t feel no pressure.”

What Williams feels, he said, is a healthy determination to succeed.

“I was born for this,” he said.

And he knows Bridgewater can help make that happen.

“He been in the league a while, he knows how it goes, he been in some situations,” Williams said. “He’s been playing football for a long time and been in the NFL for a long time. There’s some guys that just came in the league this year, I been in the league two years. People been three years. I think he’s 10 in, that’s half my age. I’m just saying, you can learn a lot from somebody who done spent a lot of time in systems and knowing what’s going on and things like that, so he’d be a great mentor for people.”

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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