Ponder trying to keep Bridgewater’s chin up
By Chris TomassonSt. Paul Pioneer Press MINNEAPOLIS -- The Vikings have a struggling rookie quarterback. And a quarterback who not so long ago dealt with his own struggles as a rookie is lending a helping hand. Teddy Bridgewater had an electrifyi...
By Chris Tomasson
St. Paul Pioneer Press
MINNEAPOLIS - The Vikings have a struggling rookie quarterback. And a quarterback who not so long ago dealt with his own struggles as a rookie is lending a helping hand.
Teddy Bridgewater had an electrifying debut in his first career start, passing for 317 yards in a Sept. 28 victory over Atlanta. But in two starts since then, he has thrown five interceptions in a pair of losses, dropping his season passer rating to 67.4 - dead last among NFL starting quarterbacks.
Bridgewater’s rating is even worse than Christian Ponder’s 70.1 as a rookie in 2011. And it’s hard to call that year much of a success, because Ponder was 2-8 as a starter.
Ponder is in his fourth season with the Vikings and is now Bridgewater’s backup. The rookie said Wednesday that Ponder has been offering advice as the Vikings prepare for Sunday’s game at Tampa Bay.
“He just tells me that everything isn’t going to be perfect,” Bridgewater said. “You’re going to have some throws that get away from you. You’re going to have some days where you’re off. It’s all about having a short-term memory. Forgetting the previous game, forgetting the previous play and move on to the next.”
Ponder said he tells Bridgewater to “keep chugging away” and “keep your head up.” Ponder said it’s not just rookies who struggle in the NFL playing a very tough position.
“Look at Tom Brady,” Ponder said of New England’s future hall of famer. “A couple of weeks ago, they were asking if they were going to start (rookie Jimmy) Garoppolo.
Every (quarterback is) going to go through it, and (Bridgewater is) handling it well.”
Bridgewater, the No. 32 pick in May’s NFL draft, took over when Matt Cassel was lost for the season with a broken foot Sept. 21 at New Orleans. Bridgewater said Cassel also has been providing advice since he’s become the starter.
After completing 19 of 30 passes for 317 yards in the 41-28 victory over Atlanta, Bridgewater has thrown for barely that many yards the past two games, losses to Detroit and Buffalo. He completed 38 of 63 for 345 yards in the two games while being sacked 13 times.
“He acts the same way, no matter if things are going really good or if things aren’t going so well,” Ponder said. “And that’s good to see, especially in a young player, that he doesn’t get too emotional. He’s even-keeled, and that’s a big part of playing this game.”
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer agreed Bridgewater’s even-keel attitude is beneficial.
“It bodes well for him because Teddy is basically Teddy,” Zimmer said. “He’s not really a rah-rah guy, and he’s not similar to me in that I’ll get down in the dumps. ... It helps at that position to maintain your composure. But I don’t want anybody to think that he doesn’t have a lot of competitiveness in him or a lot of fight because he has a ton.”
Bridgewater said he knows he’s “going to have ups and downs.” That’s why he said he doesn’t “get caught up in emotions.”
Bridgewater at least was resilient in last Sunday’s 17-16 loss at Buffalo. After throwing his second interception, he led the Vikings on a 60-yard second-quarter drive that culminated in his first career TD pass, a 4-yard flip to Cordarrelle Pattterson.
The rookie blamed himself for many of the eight sacks he took Oct. 12 against Detroit, saying he was not getting the ball out quick enough. After being dropped five times against the Bills, he vows to have better footwork.
“Whenever I’m dropping back in the pocket, getting ready to pull the trigger, throw a pass on the out-cutting route I can be much quicker, shorten up my hitch whenever I get to the top of my drop,” Bridgewater said.
Bridgewater is a native of Miami, four hours southeast of Tampa. He’s expecting a “large number of people” from Florida showing up Sunday to see if he can get his first road win as a starter.
“Teddy’s got a lot of confidence in himself, and I think he understands that he’s going to go through times where’s got to learn,” Ponder said. “But he’ll keep getting better.”
The Pioneer Press is media partner with Forum News Service.