The journey of Carolina's previous QB1 is one Teddy Bridgewater can relate to.
Few could have ever imagined the Panthers moving on from Cam Newton, but when that moment arrived, it was Bridgewater who was pegged as the next leading man in Charlotte.
The 2020 season will be the first time Bridgewater has entered a season as the undisputed starter since 2015, his second year in the NFL. A gruesome torn ACL in the summer of 2016 robbed him of two full seasons and led to his early exit from Minnesota. But the former late first-round pick has fought hard to get to where he is now and, after seeing how Newton's Carolina tenure ended, Bridgewater expressed how much he can relate to the story of the man he's replacing.
"That's the tough side of this business," Bridgewater told reporters Monday. "I had the opportunity to experience it early in my career. Injuries are always unfortunate. The way things transpired when I got injured and how I wasn't able to return to the driver's seat, I just took it as, 'Hey, man, I've got to put my head down and continue to work. Eventually, 31 other teams will have the opportunity to fall in love with me all over again."
For Bridgewater, it was the Panthers brass, headed by owner David Tepper, general manager Marty Hurney and head coach Matt Rhule, that admired the 27-year-old after a resurgent run in New Orleans. Newton's stature and possible rebirth in New England makes it more than likely the comparisons and questions will persist in the coming months, but Bridgewater made it clear he respects the former MVP and feels fortunate to be in the positon he's currently in.
"With Cam, it was one of those situations. I understand, as a player, you're a competitor, you want to get back out there and get that opportunity to show that you're still this elite guy. He's done some great things. He's obviously one of the best players to ever play for this franchise. Everyone around here respects him. They speak highly of him. I'm just honored to be following in the position that he left behind, to get the opportunity to just continue and resume my career," he said.
Training camp is nearly a week old and Bridgewater will continue writing his newest chapter with help from his new offense. He noted that he and his teammates utilized group texts, virtual team meetings and brief workout sessions in an effort to connect during this unusual offseason, but camp is where it all gets put to the test. And, so far, Bridgewater says he feels right at home.
"I credit that to Mr. Tepper, Marty, Coach Rhule and the coaching staff here. They've made this transition a smooth one and they told me from the jump that, 'Hey, this is your team,' and the guys will go as I go," he said. "Just being around the guys a couple days already, you see them feeding off my energy and I'm feeding off their energy so it definitely feels like my team."