EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Teddy Bridgewater opts to wear gloves on his throwing and non-throwing hand.
The personal preference developed more from substance than style: they enable him to handle the ball comfortably.
When he does let go, it's usually with a touch that is akin to the brush of an artist.
Vikings receivers love and benefit from the way Bridgewater delivers the ball.
Mike Wallace, an offseason addition via trade during free agency, and Jarius Wright, who signed a multiyear contract extension earlier this month, were recently talking about Bridgewater's passes.
Without prompting and in separate interviews, both mentioned the word "crazy" to describe the consistency with which Bridgewater deftly combines enough velocity while maximizing catchability.
"It's just crazy how you can pluck the ball out of the air when he throws it," Wallace said. "It's soft, but it's coming with some force. It's getting there with the same zip, but it's not coming like a bullet pass."
Added Wright, "Oh man, it's crazy. Just the way he throws the ball, it's not too hard. I've been around quarterbacks who try to overthrow it, and it's way harder to catch somebody who is trying to throw that hard, but with Teddy, he knows how to put the touch on the ball to where it's easier to focus on the ball and catch it."
Vikings quarterbacks coach Scott Turner said Bridgewater has shown "a feel for being a passer."
"I think a lot of guys can throw the ball really well, but it's different to pass," Turner said. "There are some times, and Teddy's got the ability to, you've got to put some heat on it and get it in there, but more often than not, it's about changing ball speeds and you've got to throw over a guy. You've got to throw hard or lay it in a certain area, and it just makes it a lot more catchable ball for the receivers."
When asked about passing the ball with touch, Bridgewater humbly shrugged it off as just playing football.
"Some guys have live arms, strong arms and some guys change it up, so I just stay within my playing ability," Bridgewater said. "I'm a touch passer, and if a pass requires touch, lay it up there for a guy to go make a play."
Bridgewater has opened the season 37-of-50 passing (74 percent) for 384 yards with one touchdown, one interception and a passer rating of 94.1. He posted the second-highest passer rating of his short career (120.6) Sunday against the Lions and will look to stay hot this Sunday against the Chargers.
Hot Finish in Cold
The warm start to this season is the continuation of Bridgewater's play near the end of his rookie season. The Vikings were impressed by the way Bridgewater played in 2014 when he set or tied 91 franchise rookie quarterback records, including starts (12), wins (six), completion percentage (64.4) and passer rating (85.2) — notice how it's not called thrower's rating?
While some thought harsh late-season conditions in the Vikings first season with home games outdoors in more than 30 years, would cause Bridgewater's numbers to drop like the mercury or bait in a shanty, they rose.
In the Vikings final three home games, which had temperatures of 12, 32 and 15 degrees Fahrenheit, Bridgewater posted passer ratings of 120.7, 117.7 and 90.2 and was a combined 51-of-73 (69.9 percent) for 656 yards with five touchdowns against two interceptions and a rating of 109.2.
In the month of December, Bridgewater led the NFL with 9.18 yards per attempt, ranked second in completion percentage (72.3) and fourth in passer rating (99.8).
His performance gave the personnel department and coaching staff the confidence to build around him with future decisions.
Wallace arrived after two seasons with Miami, where he caught 140 passes and 15 touchdowns. He logged 235 catches and 32 TDs in four seasons with Pittsburgh. Wallace said Bridgewater's passes are similar to Ben Roethlisberger, who set the NFL record for rookie completion percentage in 2004 at 66.4 percent, two spots above Bridgewater's mark.
This year, Bridgewater said he'd love to hit on 70 percent of his passes, a mark only accomplished by four players: Drew Brees (record of 71.2 in 2011 and 70.6 in 2009), Ken Anderson (70.6 in 1982) and Hall of Famers Steve Young (70.3 in 1994) and Joe Montana (70.2 in 1989).
Multiple factors could help him reach that goal: his intelligence paired with a greater command of the offense to know the best options for where to go with the ball earlier in the play, the ability to adjust his delivery for specific throws, his steady demeanor, help from receiving targets, and the voice of experience from veteran backup Shaun Hill.
Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner has been high on Bridgewater's ability to make decisions and handle multiple types of situations in calling him a "guy that knows how to play the game."
"I think it was very obvious to us, first of all, watching Teddy's college tape, then getting him here and watching him here and how he grew and got comfortable in playing," Norv Turner said. "He's got great vision, he understands what we're trying to do, he's very disciplined and I think guys lose sight of that."
Norv Turner has taken issue when some external evaluators have downgraded Bridgewater in their rankings because of their perception of his arm strength.
"I think some of these guys go out and evaluate quarterbacks, if a guy can't throw a ball through the wall, his value goes down," Norv Turner said. "Well, we don't like guys who throw it through a wall. We like guys who have a good feel for playing, and Teddy certainty does have a great feel for playing the game."
ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer, who visited Winter Park while prepping to call the Vikings season opener at the 49ers, told Vikings.com's Mike Wobschall "there's a lot to be excited about" Bridgewater.
"We make so much, unfortunately, with this position about size and arm strength and a lot of stuff that matters but doesn't matter the most," Dilfer said. "What matters the most is how you process, decision-making, how you handle big environments. There's a lot of pressure on the position, and I think Teddy has been conditioned to handle those incredibly well."
Dilfer added he thinks Bridgewater is a great processor, capable of handling a lot on his plate.
"He's always going to give you a chance to win," Dilfer said. "When you are looking for a franchise quarterback, that's what you're looking for more than anything else, a guy that is going to give you a chance to win because of his skill set but mainly because of his decision making."
Bridgewater must consider where to go with the football before addressing how to get it there.
The journey from Point A to B during an NFL pass rarely involves a straight line. Instead, Scott Turner said, it occurs in a three-dimensional plane over the course of time that lasts mere seconds. He said that's where a quarterback's ability to shape a ball comes into play.
"It's something I think you can work on," the QBs coach said. "We talk about throwing over or around people. You practice it just like you practice any other skill, but it's a gift. It's something he's had the ability to do since he started throwing a football."
Bridgewater said "different routes and different coverages determine the type of velocity and type of touch you put on a pass."
Wallace said he thinks Bridgewater can "do it all."
"I think he can zip it when he needs to or put touch on it when he needs to," Wallace said.
Wright, who built chemistry with Bridgewater early last season when they were both on the second team, has moved up to the first team when the Vikings use a three-receiver formation.
With good reason.
Bridgewater posted a passer rating of 128.6 when targeting Wright in 2014, completing 36 of 46 passes (78.3 percent) for 524 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
"In general, Teddy throws a great ball, whether it's touch or no touch, Teddy is always going to put it in a pretty good spot to catch the ball," Wright said. "It's kind of all on him (to do so).
"When we break out of a route, we don't exactly know where the DB is, so we can kind of go off the ball, where it leads us to, so that's all we can do," Wright said. "He sees the DB and knows where to throw the ball, how much touch he can put on it. Or, if no touch at all and he needs to gun it in there, he'll do what he can."
There's a time and a place for the heater, Wright said, but ironically it's not the best option in the cold, which could be a factor in 2015. The Vikings are scheduled to host three home games this December before wrapping the slate with their first ever regular season trip to Lambeau Field in January.
"You don't want to see that ball every play, especially in the cold," Wright said. "That's when Teddy's footballs come into play. When it's cold, that definitely makes it a little bit easier to catch."