Teddy Bridgewater keeps impressing while waiting his turn

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METAIRIE, La. -- Teddy Bridgewater was just having some fun when he switched jerseys and positions with Alvin Kamara for the start of Thursday’s final minicamp practice.

But the New Orleans Saints' backup quarterback turned serious when he talked about his skills as a pass-catcher.

“I’ve probably got the best hands in the NFL,” Bridgewater insisted. “Well, first Michael Thomas. But then Teddy Bridgewater.”

Make no mistake: Although Bridgewater decided that it was the best career move for him to spend another year behind Drew Brees and under the tutelage of coach Sean Payton in New Orleans -- calling himself a “businessman” -- his competitive fire is alive and well.

Even when he was running the scout team during practices last year, Bridgewater loved talking trash to the Saints’ starting defensive backs. And they readily admit that he was torching them early in the season, before he forced them to step up their game.

Saints cornerback P.J. Williams said it reminded him of the way Jameis Winston was as a redshirt freshman when they were teammates at Florida State.

“He talks. He makes good throws. He can make all the throws,” Williams said of Bridgewater. “Having a player who has the caliber to be a starter on the scout team, that’s big.

“And it showed on the field. Because when he was beating us early on, we weren’t playing up to what we can play [in the games]. And once we started doing a lot better against him, it showed on the field too.”

Bridgewater got to resume his rivalry against the first-string defense during a pair of OTA and minicamp practices over the past two weeks while Brees was absent for a trial in San Diego. And Bridgewater looked smooth in the role, especially during one particular red zone session.

Bridgewater had his share of ups and downs during New Orleans’ spring practice sessions; he got picked off by cornerback Patrick Robinson during each of the final two minicamp practices. But for the most part, he looked impressive and comfortable in an offense that he is really installing for the first time.

Since Bridgewater didn’t arrive until late August last year in a trade with the New York Jets, the team was done installing the full offense and already was devising weekly game plans.

“I think a lot of people forget the success he had when he was in Minnesota. I think he’s a great quarterback,” Kamara said of Bridgewater, who started 29 games in his first two seasons with the Vikings from 2014 to 2015, including the playoffs, before a devastating knee injury interrupted his career in the summer of 2016.

“Some of the throws he makes, even when Drew’s there, he’s like, ‘Man, that’s a great throw.’ Everybody sees it,” Kamara said. “Obviously, there are things he has to get better at, but that goes for everybody. And he’s willing to learn.”

Payton and Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. both said one of the best things about Bridgewater is that he is a “quick study.” Carmichael also said he has a very strong arm, he is accurate and he gets the ball out quickly -- “all those traits you look for in a quarterback that you can’t necessarily teach.”

“In fairness to Teddy, there are certain things you would begin to build around strength-wise that I think he’s exceptional at [if the Saints actually were using game plans in their spring practice sessions]. But when you’re in an OTA or a minicamp, you have an installation for the masses,” Payton said. “But he’s extremely bright. I think he has really good arm talent. And he has a demeanor about him that suits the position well. I think he’s a good leader.”

When asked what he thinks Payton likes about his demeanor, Bridgewater said he considers himself an even-keeled quarterback who doesn’t get too high or low.

“I just feel like when you play this position, you have to be the eye of the hurricane,” Bridgewater said. “When everything around you is going wild and running like a fire drill, you have to be the one that’s calm and cool. So hopefully that’s what he means.”

In a sense, Bridgewater has taken that same approach to his career.

Of course, he said, the competitor in him wants to get back on the field as quickly as possible. He has started just one game over the past three years -- when the Saints rested some of their starters in Week 17 last season.

But Bridgewater, 26, is still relatively young. And he is confident that learning under Brees and Payton will set him up best for future success in this league. So he signed a one-year, $7.25 million contract that is worth up to $12.5 million with incentives.

He is obviously a fantastic emergency option for the Saints. And he would seemingly be an ideal successor if the 40-year-old Brees ever decides to call it quits.

Otherwise, better opportunities could open up elsewhere around the NFL next offseason.

“I just sat back and weighed my options and thought about what would be best for me. And that’s an opportunity for me to just grow and continue to learn and expand my mental capacity as a football player,” said Bridgewater, who called it both “fun” and a “great opportunity” to mix in with the Saints’ starters this spring.

“You sit back and watch Drew operate with those guys. And it’s like, ‘Man, when they operate with Drew, it’s like a well-oiled machine.’ That’s the standard. And when you get your opportunity, you’ve gotta go in there and pick up right where Drew left off."