Bridge­wa­ter stay­ing pos­i­tive in come­back from ‘scary’ in­jury

New Haven Register (New Haven, CT) - - MLB/NFL - AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Teddy Bridge­wa­ter re­mem­bers some of his team­mates cry­ing. They were on their knees and pray­ing.

For him. The New York Jets quar­ter­back was with the Min­nesota Vik­ings in 2016 when he went down in a heap of ag­o­niz­ing pain. Bridge­wa­ter had twisted his left knee badly on a non-con­tact play, and the sever­ity of the in­jury was only be­gin­ning to sur­face.

Bridge­wa­ter knew from the looks of his team­mates’ faces that the sit­u­a­tion was dire. And some­how, he stayed calm.

“As grue­some as it may have seemed, I feel like I did a great job of re­main­ing poised,” Bridge­wa­ter re­called Tues­day as the Jets opened their three-day mini­camp.

Com­ing off his first Pro Bowl ap­pear­ance, Bridge­wa­ter had torn the an­te­rior cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment and had other struc­tural dam­age, in­clud­ing a dis­lo­cated knee joint.

“There were guys throw­ing hel­mets, guys on knees and I didn’t cry and I didn’t worry,” Bridge­wa­ter said. “I just knew that it was in God’s hands. I think I was im­pressed with the way I kept my faith, but I got to see how much I meant to the guys — not only as a foot­ball player, but also as a per­son. It could’ve went to­tally south.”

His career was in jeop­ardy, and at one point, sav­ing his man­gled left leg was the only thing that mat­tered.

“It was scary,” Bridge­wa­ter said while man­ag­ing a smile. “But at the end of the day, I was still breath­ing. That was my big­gest take­away from it. … When there’s some­one out there whose sit­u­a­tion is worse than yours, that’s the first thing that came into my mind. Like, `Man, I don’t know what just hap­pened, but I know there’s some­one out there who’s go­ing through some­thing worse than I am, so I just have to keep my faith and be­lieve that ev­ery­thing’s go­ing to be all right.’“

Bridge­wa­ter gets his per­se­ver­ance and never quit at­ti­tude from his mother, Rose Mur­phy, who raised him and his three sib­lings in the Mi­ami area. She’s a breast can­cer sur­vivor who has been in re­mis­sion for sev­eral years, some­thing that is a source of pride for Bridge­wa­ter. He also counts her as his big­gest sup­porter.

“She was a fighter, so I wit­nessed her fight with her bat­tle with breast can­cer,” Bridge­wa­ter said. “I took away those traits and at­ti­tude. When­ever she was down — well, she was never re­ally down be­cause she would al­ways say, `There’s some­one out there whose sit­u­a­tion is way worse than mine, so I can’t be down, plus the can­cer feeds off neg­a­tiv­ity, so I have to be pos­i­tive.’

“So that’s why I feel like I’m just this pos­i­tive guy. Watch­ing her con­tinue to smile and stay up­beat through­out her tough­est times in life had a huge im­pact on me.”

Bridge­wa­ter has needed every bit of that pos­i­tiv­ity dur­ing the last two years of of­ten gru­el­ing re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion. Now 25, the for­mer Louisville star is still a young­ster in NFL years. But the in­jury was enough to make some teams wary of giv­ing him a chance af­ter the Vik­ings al­lowed him to be­come a free agent dur­ing the off­sea­son.

The Jets, look­ing for quar­ter­back depth, signed him for $500,000 in March and drafted Sam Darnold with the No. 3 over­all pick a month later. Josh McCown, who turns 39 on July 4, re­mains the fa­vorite to win the start­ing job, but Bridge­wa­ter could have as much of a shot at win­ning the three­man com­pe­ti­tion as any­one — es­pe­cially if he con­tin­ues pro­gress­ing. He won’t dis­cuss de­tails of his health or his sta­tus, other than say­ing he’s get­ting bet­ter every day.


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