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2014 NFL Combine: Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater says 'I’m the best quarterback in this draft'

By Nate Ulrich Published: February 22, 2014!/httpImage/image.JPG_gen/derivatives/display_600/image.JPG

Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater addressed the media today at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. Bridgewater is a candidate to be chosen fourth overall by the Browns. Below is a transcript from the news conference.

How has Coach Charlie Strong aided your development: “Coach Strong, he played a huge role in just me becoming a pure pocket passer and just a pure quarterback. When I first arrived at the University of Louisville, I wasn’t starting. I was second on the depth chart. I told Coach Strong, ‘Hey, I want to play wide receiver just so I can get on the field.’ He told me, ‘No, hey, I recruited you as a quarterback. You’re going to play quarterback.’ That right there, it just meant a lot to me knowing that he didn’t just take the easy way out and satisfy me. It played a huge role in my success just from a pure pocket quarterback standpoint.”

Do you believe you’re the best quarterback in the draft and the Texans should draft you No. 1 overall: “Yes, no doubt. I feel that I’m the best quarterback in this draft. I’m not just going to sit up here and say it. There’s obviously actions that have to back up these words, and I’m just confident in myself and my capability to be able to play this position. I’m just going to go out there and prove that I’m the best guy.”

What do you think it is that separates you from the other quarterbacks in this class: “The biggest thing I think is my accuracy. This past season, I was able to complete 71 percent of my passes. My third-down passing completion percentage was pretty much off the charts, my pocket presence, I’m a competitor. Each day I go out there and I’m eager to learn, remain a student of the game, and I think that right there just separates me.”

Will you throw at the combine: “No, I won’t be throwing, but I will throw at my pro day. I will be running, though. I will run here at the combine.”

What went into your decision to throw at your pro day instead of here: “The biggest thing was just me being a perfectionist, and I just want everything to go right. Whether I’m taking a five-step drop and the guy’s not on top of his route at the time, I just want to have that chemistry with the guys. I tend to look at it from a pro standpoint. When you’re throwing in the offseason, you want to be with your guys to have that timing and that connection, so that was the biggest thing.”

You weighed in heavier than expected. How much weight did you put on since the end of the season and was it a major focus: “Yes, sir. It was a huge focus. I put on about nine pounds. I was 205 pounds when I finished the season at the University of Louisville. I’ve been working hard with my eating habits, my weight room lifting and everything.”

Do you believe you’ll be able to endure the wear and tear of an NFL season: “Yes, no doubt. I just feel that to play this position you have to have durability, and I just want to prove that I can put on that weight and I am one of those guys who can last a full NFL season.”

A lot of analysts believe you’re the most NFL-ready quarterback, but Johnny Manziel is getting the most attention. Do you feel you’re under the radar and should be getting more attention: “I actually don’t pay any attention to what’s going on right now. All I do is control what I can control and that’s how hard I work each day continuing to play at a consistent level, at a high level. I just control the things that I can.”

Does the fact that you played in a pro-style offense and other prospects didn’t give you an advantage: “Yes. I just feel that especially that I played at the University of Louisville, it just prepared me for some of the things that an NFL quarterback has to do nowadays with making the checks at the line of scrimmage, sliding the protection, IDing [identifying] the Mike, getting the offense in and out of the right plays, signaling the hot routes to the wide receives. It shows how much trust that the coach had in me, [offensive coordinator and quarterbacks] coach [Shawn] Watson, and I’m glad that he put that trust in me.”

What doubts do you think you might need to relieve: “Hopefully I relieved all doubts with my size. I know that I still have more weight that I can put on. Each day I’m still going to work hard, continue to add even more weight.”

What does football mean to you: “Football means everything to me. I started playing organized sports when I was about 5 years old, and from the first time I picked up a football, I told myself I want to go to the NFL. It’s a way for me to just relieve everything. I lay it all on the line each day I go out there and play the game. I have such a passion for the game that I can’t even describe it.”

Is your mother your biggest inspiration: “Yes, my mom, she’s a huge inspiration to not only my life, but to my athletic career because there came a point in time where I wanted to give up sports. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was at the age of 14 and I was ready to give up sports just to take care of here because I felt that that was my purpose in life. God had called on me to stop doing what I’m doing to take care of her, but she told me that, ‘God has blessed you with your talents. Use them to the best of your ability.’ That’s why each day I step on that field, nothing bothers me because I know that what she went through, nothing compares to that.”

What do you know about Texans coach Bill O’Brien and his ability to work with quarterbacks: “I know that he’s from Penn State and he coached Tom Brady back at the Patriots and he’s a great coach. I’m eager to meet him and talk to him.”

What do you remember about your matchup with Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles in college: “That was a great game. It went back and forth. I think we jumped out early in the game, and one turnover just sparked a run for those guys. Blake, he’s an awesome guy. He’s a big body, strong arm, and I’m a big fan of his from just watching him and playing against him.”

When you look at quarterbacks like Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick and what they’ve done in the NFL, what kind of confidence does that give you: “It gives me a ton of confidence ‘cause those guys have had success early in their careers, and that just shows me that hey, you don’t have to wait five years down the road. You can come into this league and make an immediate impact not only to your team but to the National Football League. That right there just speaks volumes.”

Your hand size has been a question. How do you convince teams that your hand is big enough: “Well, simply by just completing the football. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter about your hand size. The only thing that matters is the guy getting completed to wide receivers, and I feel that with my accuracy, my arm strength, my decision making, the hand size shouldn’t be a factor.”

But holding the ball in the cold weather, which you’ll need to do if the Browns draft you, is that going to be a factor: “No at all. I played in cold weather at the University of Louisville. If it gets too cold, I’ll be able to put on a glove and throw with a glove, and I’ve had success doing that.”

Did you always wear gloves: “No, sir. I started wearing gloves when I arrived at the University of Louisville.”

Did wear gloves every game: “Yes, sir.”

Have you met with the Jaguars yet: “Yes, sir. I did.”

How did that go: “It was a great meeting. A lot of energy in the room. The general manager was in there. The owner was in there. I was up on the board talking football to those guys, and it was a great feeling.”

Did you meet with the Browns yet: “No, sir. I haven’t met with the Browns yet.”

Who were some of the other teams you’ve met with: “Yesterday, I met with Oakland and Jacksonville. Oakland, it was a great meeting also. Everyone was in there from the owner to the general manager, head coach, offensive coordinator. It was a great meeting, a lot of energy, a lot of smiles, laughs. I was just able to be myself. That’s been my biggest thing, just proving to coaches who I am as a person. They’ve watched the film. They’ve studied who I am as a player. But it’s all about getting in those rooms and establishing a relationship as a person, and I feel that I’ve been doing well doing that.”

Have you had much interaction with Johnny Manziel and what do you think of him: “Johnny, he’s my guy. I met Johnny last summer out in Oregon for one of the Elite 11 events. We were out there. We were mentors, and that was our first time meeting. Ever since then, our relationship has clicked. Around here, Johnny and I, we’ve been talking. We’ve been discussing things about future plans and college football. Whenever you get around these guys, you love to talk about what you did in the past and everything. Johnny, he’s a great guy.”

Some people say you’re obsessed with football and you don’t think about anything else. Is that accurate: “Yes. I eat, sleep and breathe football. There’s not a moment that goes by that I’m not thinking about football whether it’s I’m playing a game, practicing, watching film, even on the video game. A lot of people ask me what do I do on the video game. I call it taking virtual reps. Each day, I’m trying to get better. I’m trying to outwork my opponent, outsmart my opponent and just try to be the best quarterback that I can be.”

Do you have a playing weight you want to reach or have teams talked to you about that: “No one has told me what level they want to see me at. But at one point in my career when I was at the University of Louisville, I was up to 222 pounds. I had an oral procedure done, and it set me back. I couldn’t eat for two months, and that was a period when I lost most of my weight. So I just want to get back to that range, 220, 225 range, and just feel good.”

When was the weight loss: “My sophomore year at the University of Louisville.”

Do you have a hard time putting on weight: “Not at all. I just have to get back adjusted to eating the right foods and everything and controlling my eating habits.”

What was the oral procedure you had: “I used to have an overbite. I forgot the name of it [the procedure], but I used to have an overbite. They did a procedure where they had to break my jaw and everything so that they could straighten my teeth, and now I have an even bite.”

Was there a specific play or moment that made you think you were ready for the NFL: “Well, just every play because I try to perfect every play whether it’s in the check game, checking to the right play. Coach Watson, he was a coach who graded every rep from the time I was a freshman, and each year, I continue to just progress from my freshman year from throwing 12 touchdowns to 14 interceptions, to my sophomore year throwing 30 touchdowns to eight interceptions, then my junior year throwing 31 touchdowns, four interceptions. I’ve always just made strides to try to get better each and every day. I remember one pass, we were playing against the University of Cincinnati my sophomore year. I was in the pocket and everything had broke down. We had run a double move route on the outside. Damian Copeland, he ran a nice take-off route. I stepped up in the pocket, threw the ball off my back foot about 55 yards down the field, and that throw right there just told me, ‘Hey, I may be ready.’”

In video games, do you create yourself on Madden: “I just play with the teams that are on the game. There are some great quarterbacks. There are some outstanding quarterbacks in this league. I just pray that one day I’m good enough to be at those guys’ level. I just play the game with those guys. I try to copy some of the things that they do in real life and try to apply it to my game also. And even on the video game, I’m just a competitor, so the video games are so advanced nowadays that you see the defenses that you’ll face in real life on those video games. You’ll see offenses that teams are really running in the National Football League or in college football. You just can apply it to the video games, apply it to the way I play and I just try to get better each day.”

What quarterback do you model your game after: “I try to take something from each guy. Each guy in this league does outstanding things and each guy is different. I just try to take something from each guy whether it’s throwing mechanics, pocket presence, arch and pace on the ball, just those little things.”

If you could be any quarterback in history, who would you be: “I would have to go with my former University of Louisville native Johnny Unitas. No, I wasn’t around watching him play, but I’ve heard great things about him, and I just want to have a successful career, the type of career that he had.”

What was your favorite play at Louisville: “I can’t tell you the name of the play, but it was a deep, horizontal concept. It was good enough to beat any coverage. Whether it was pressure, I could get the ball out fast, adjust the protection, or if we needed a big play, long yardage, third down, third-and-12, we had an inside fade with a diagonal route. It was a great play, and I’ve had huge success throughout my entire career since [I was] a freshman running that play.”

Your agent is from Houston. Is that a coincidence because they have the No. 1 pick and what has he told you about the city: “Kennard, he’s a great guy, and he’s very genuine. From the first time I met him, he walked in and told me, ‘Hey, look, you don’t need me. I need you.’ So that’s the type of relationship I want. That’s the type of relationship I want, someone who’s willing to do great things for the person and also me as a person. That relationship, he’s told me some great things about Houston, but right now, our focus has just been on training right now and whatever happens will come down the road later.”

It took you awhile to decide to enter the draft. What went into that decision: “I’ve always been a goal-oriented person and a goal-drive person, and from the time I was being recruited out of high school, whatever coach that came to recruit me, I told him, ‘Hey, look, I want to be on the three-year plan. I want to become a starter as a freshman, be all conference as a sophomore, graduate my junior year and be out the door. I just looked back, and I weighed my options. I looked back and I asked myself, ‘Was I able to accomplish all of those goals?’ And as I look back, I was. I have my degree, a degree in sports administration from the University of Louisville, I was a three-year starter, won a BCS game and won conference player of the year. So as I looked back, I told myself that I accomplished everything that I wanted and it was time to go.”

When you play Madden, which quarterback are you or do you create yourself: “I don’t create myself because I don’t want to overrate myself and I don’t want to underrate myself. So I just play with the guys. I’m a huge Peyton Manning fan with the things he does. Russell Wilson, just some of the greats in this league, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady. The list goes on and on, and I try to play with every team because each team has a playmaker whether it’s a wide receiver, a running back, a tight end, and the teams have great offensive lines. So I’m just a competitor, and I’ll line up with any team and just compete.”


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