FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Every moment on the field is like a dream for Teddy Bridgewater. He said "it gives me the chills" just thinking playing football again. Two years ago, the game was almost taken away from him forever, so he's grateful to be getting a second chance.
But even he doesn't know if that second chance will ultimately be with the Jets.
At the moment, the 25-year-old Bridgewater is the No. 2 quarterback on the Jets' roster. But he's caught in a state of limbo, sandwiched between their Quarterback of the Present (Josh McCown) and their Quarterback of the Future (Sam Darnold). He's getting a chance to prove he's healthy, and on Friday night in the Jets' preseason opener, he's going to get a chance to play a lot.
But the reality is, he probably doesn't have much of a chance to emerge from training camp as the Jets' starter. If he's going to be a starter again in the NFL, it's likely going to be with someone else.
"I live in the moment," Bridgewater said after practice on Monday. "You control what you can control. For me it is coming to work every day and putting forth my best effort, leading my group up and down the field, throwing completions and getting us in and out of the right plays. That is what I look forward to right now. Everything else will take care of itself."
That's a healthy attitude for a player who has been mostly out of football since Aug. 30, 2016, when he suffered a devastating, non-contact knee injury that effectively ended his time as the Minnesota Vikings starting quarterback, and very nearly ended his career. His long road back led to a couple of snaps at the end of the Vikings' regular season in December, and then ultimately to a one-year, incentive-laded, $6 million contract with the Jets.
But on the Jets, he's still stuck with an uncertain future. The 39-year-old McCown isn't just the incumbent starter, he's been the best quarterback in training camp and shows no signs of losing the grip on his job. And if he did, the Jets are much more likely to turn to Darnold, the impressive, 21-year-old rookie they drafted third overall.
That's why this preseason for Bridgewater is really an audition for the rest of the league, either for this fall or next spring when he's a free agent again. It's a chance for everyone to see what the Jets have seen - that Bridgewater is healthy and can definitely still play.
"He's a pro's pro," McCown said. "Just his poise in the huddle, how he carries himself, and every time he steps on the field he's ready to go. He's prepared and he puts the time in to make sure when he gets to the line of scrimmage he has answers to solve problems different defenses can throw at him.
"And then he's just an accurate passer. Great touch, and again, a ton of poise, and a great leader for our team. He's been really, really cool to work with. He's been great. He's been impressive."
If that translates to the preseason games, there's still no lock the Jets would dangle Bridgewater as trade bait. There is value to keeping a talented quarterback on the roster, even if he's something of a third wheel. There's always the chance someone gets hurt, or that Darnold isn't ready.
Also, as Jets coach Todd Bowles said, he's "a great team player, great in the meeting room and for the guys as well."
"I've got to say, this is the best three-quarterback combination room I've been around from a mental standpoint," Bowles added. "So that's great to have."
What would it take for the Jets to trade Bridgewater? Probably desperation on the part of another team. When Bridgewater got hurt two years ago, the Vikings were suddenly in a desperate situation, and ended up trading a first-round pick and a conditional fourth-rounder to the Philadelphia Eagles for Sam Bradford. That was quite a haul, but that's because the Vikings were left without a quarterback with the season just two weeks away.
At the moment, all NFL quarterback vacancies appear filled either with veterans or someone taken in the 2018 NFL draft. But that certainly could change during the course of four preseason games. And if it does, a healthy Bridgewater, a first-round pick from the 2014 draft with 28 NFL starts on his resume, could be the most attractive quarterback available for a needy team.
But that's for later. For now, Bridgewater is too busy enjoying this opportunity to worry about what the future holds. He says he feels healthy. He certainly looks healthy. And he's just enjoying every little thing about the game.
"I get excited every day I get to get my ankles taped, lace my cleats up and run out of the locker room and practice because it was taken away from me for two years," he said. "To be able to just wake up and know you have the opportunity to continue to do something that you love doing, it's a great feeling."