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Teddy: Vikings 'Eager to get Better'

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Nearly a year removed from gathering with young prospects in Radio City Music Hall about a block from Broadway in New York City, Teddy Bridgewater will ride down Broadway in Louisville, Ky.

Bridgewater, who starred for the University of Louisville from 2011-13, will serve as grand marshal of the Kentucky Derby Festival Pegasus Parade that is scheduled for Thursday, the same day the 2015 NFL Draft is scheduled to begin in Chicago.

Bridgewater will be able to stay in his college hometown and enjoy the weekend's festivities. He'll go from collecting tickets at the entry gates while a student to a having view of the starting gates Saturday.

"I'm excited about attending the Derby," Bridgewater said. "When I was in college, I had an opportunity to work the Derby so it will be fun this year to watch it live and not have to work. I worked at one of the ticketing gates. A couple of guys on the team got together and decided we're still on campus in May, so we'll work it.

Fast forward to this year, and Bridgewater and his agent received an invitation for him to be part of the attraction.

"I thought it would be a great idea to go back," Bridgewater said. "I have so many memories there. It's going to be fun to be able to ride around in a car in the parade and also attend the event."

The race, which has occurred every year since 1875 and starts the Triple Crown series, has become known as "the most exciting two minutes in sports" because of the approximate duration of time it takes to cross the finish line after 1.25 miles.

Bridgewater did his part to challenge the Derby's claim to that title multiple times as a rookie. He led six scoring drives at the end of halves in that amount of time or less and posted a seasonal franchise-record four come-from-behind victories. He also alertly changed a play at the line and quickly fired the ball to Jarius Wright, who hit full stride for an 87-yard score to beat the Jets in overtime. That play, in part, stemmed from trust the quarterback and receiver developed last offseason.

"I knew Teddy was going to come out and be a great quarterback," Wright said Monday after a workout session that was open to the media. "When I first got in, Teddy was the backup and I was pretty much a backup too so every rep was me and Teddy with the 2s and he built a relationship with me that he knew he could trust me, and it's carried on where we both play with the starters."

Unlike the rule-specified 3-year-old thoroughbreds who have one shot at "The Run for the Roses," Bridgewater is poised to have multiple runs with the Vikings. His second pro season launched last week when Minnesota began its voluntary offseason workout program.

"Guys came back with the same mindset," Bridgewater said, still sweating from Monday's session. "It shows we have a team that's eager to get better. We know that last year wasn't good enough so we're going to continue to work hard. It started last week, and we're going to continue to make progress each week.

"I left a lot of plays on the field last year, but I'm always trying to get better," Bridgewater added. "I appreciate people saying I had a good rookie season, but if I play at that same level this year, we'll be 7-9 again, and that's not good enough."

Bridgewater set or tied a total of 91 franchise records, including starts (12), wins (six), completion percentage (64.4) and passer rating (85.2) by a rookie. The completion percentage was the third-highest, and the passer rating ranked seventh-highest among qualifying first-year players in NFL history. He was named Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year in a vote by fans and participated in award-related events at Super Bowl XLIX.

An offseason goal for Bridgewater is bulking up to prepare for the grind of another year in the NFL. Bridgewater said after taking a slight break, he worked out using a plan designed by Evan Marcus, Vikings head strength and conditioning coach, and assistants Jeff Hurd and Chaz Mahle while spending some time in Miami and in Southern California with teammates that were hosted by Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph.

View the top 20 images of Teddy Bridgewater from the 2014 season.

"We were great with our communication," Bridgewater said. "They were pretty impressed with the way I returned."

The quarterback was listed at 210 pounds last season and didn't say where he's currently tipping scales.

"I'll keep that a secret right now," Bridgewater said. "I just want to continue to track my progress. I'll see how bigger and stronger I am once the OTAs are over."

Bridgewater started the week by attending the Wild's series-clinching win over the Blues on Sunday.

"I'll take my hat off to those guys on the Minnesota Wild for keeping the playoff hunt alive and advancing to the next round," Bridgewater said. "It was a pretty impressive atmosphere. You talk about playoff hockey, I thought playoff football was intense, but being at that game and interacting with the fans, it was a pretty unique situation. I can't wait to get back there."

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