MANKATO, Minnesota: Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater says he loves high expectations.
Well, he’s got them.
The defending NFC North champions begin training camp Friday at Minnesota State Mankato, and Bridgewater — who reported with teammates on Thursday — said he’s ready for anything thrown at the team.
“We welcome pressure,” Bridgewater said. “That’s one thing about us here, that the guys don’t back down from challenges. We have a great group of guys here who want to be great. … I welcome pressure, and I’ve been dealing with pressure since I’ve been playing sports. That’s why I play the position. It’s the most pressure-packed position, and I love it.”
Bridgewater is facing more scrutiny than any other Minnesota player. Many believe the team’s ability to make a deep playoff run will come down to whether he takes a big step forward in his third NFL season.
The Vikings finished the regular season with an 11-5 record behind Adrian Peterson’s 1,485 yards and 11 touchdowns. Bridgewater completed 65.3 percent of his passes, good for ninth in the NFL, but his 202-yard average ranked 32nd.
Head coach Mike Zimmer lauded Bridgewater’s work this spring, citing improvements in his leadership and ability to throw deep. Bridgewater knows he must take charge of the offense.
“That’s probably something I should work on,” he said. “I’m probably going to be more assertive, having more input and things like that. … We have an assertive head coach in Coach Zimmer. I want to be an image of Coach Zim, and I’m going to make sure that I try to do that.”
Still, there are limits to what Bridgewater can add in 2016. With returning NFL rushing leader Peterson in the backfield, the Vikings are still primarily a running team, one reason Bridgewater shrugged off a question about whether he might become more of a “gunslinger.”
“I’m going to continue to do what’s asked of me and then some,” Bridgewater said. “I don’t want to be that guy that I’m not. I’m not going to go out there and just throw the ball all around the park and throw it to the other team. I want to have an aggressive mentality but a relaxed presence.”