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Vikings Proud of Bridgewater but Relish Chance to Play Against Him

EAGAN, Minn. — The emotions will be flowing tonight.

Sure, the game between the Vikings and Saints is an exhibition contest, and it's one where the starting units on both sides likely won't play much.

But at some point during the game, Teddy Bridgewater will line up at quarterback for New Orleans and square off against his former team.

And if future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees doesn't suit up for New Orleans, Bridgewater will likely start against Minnesota's first-team defense.

Count Xavier Rhodes as one player who hopes that scenario plays out.

"Oh, I cannot wait. He better hope I don't pick him off," the Vikings cornerback said with a grin. "I'll run in the end zone and then go back and give him the ball."

All jokes aside, the topic of Bridgewater brought a smile to the face of everyone who was asked about him this week.

This isn't even the quarterback's first season away from Minnesota. He spent the 2018 campaign with the Saints, after four seasons with the Vikings.

And he even played one snap at U.S. Bank Stadium, when he lined up wide to the right in Week 8 but did not factor into the running play.

Even so, there are numerous players and coaches who were teammates with Bridgewater from 2014-2017, and it was crystal clear they have an immense amount of respect for him.

Bridgewater's story is well-known, of course. He was a first-round pick in 2014 and helped lead the Vikings to an NFC North title in 2015 before suffering a horrific non-contact knee injury on Aug. 30, 2016.

He missed the 2016 season but worked his way back to the field to play a handful of snaps in Week 15 of the 2017 season.

Those within the Vikings organization gushed about Bridgewater this week.

"Everybody knows what Teddy has been through. Just seeing Teddy just grow and what he does for the community, I'm just proud of the guy that he's become and how he's fought back from his injury," said Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, a fellow Miami native. "I know how it can be, and [my knee injury] wasn't as severe as his, but to see my guy back out there, it makes me proud."

Rhodes added: "Man, I am so proud of Teddy. I'm happy for him, and I tell him that. He was one of those guys who was doing everything right, and then everything just fell apart for him. One thing I really cherish and what inspires me about Teddy is that he's always had a good spirit. No matter what was said, if they said his career was over, he came every day … and when I've seen him in Miami … with a smile on his face. He's always been in good spirits, no matter what situation he's in."

View images as the Vikings traveled to New Orleans in advance of Friday's first preseason game vs. the Saints.

Bridgewater was especially close with Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer, who said in the past that he believed Bridgewater would be his starter for the duration of his coaching career with the Vikings.

"Yeah, I am proud of him, for him to be able to come back from the type of injury that he had and still be playing in the NFL," Zimmer said Wednesday. "Our statistics, you know when the injury happened, it was a pretty bleak outlook for him, but that's the kind of kid he is.

"I actually talked to [Saints Head Coach] Sean Payton," Zimmer continued. "Sean said he's the same guy, no restrictions, doing well, and Teddy is a competitor. He'll try and stick it to us just like we're going stick it to him."

Bridgewater went 17-11 as a starter in Minnesota, throwing for 6,150 yards with 28 touchdowns and 22 interceptions.

But his impact on the organization was about more than stats, as he was one of the most beloved players in the locker room during his four seasons in Purple. His determination, attitude and demeanor after his injury only intensified that.

"It's just his personality. I'll tell you a story. When my dad died, his mom called me," Zimmer said. "So I was driving in the car, she called to give her condolences, and you know, it's hard to say thank you and all that [in that situation], so I said, 'Hey, I just want to tell you how much I appreciate Teddy,' and she stopped me.

"She said, 'Coach, I didn't call you to talk about Teddy. I just called you [for you],'" Zimmer added. "So that's the upbringing that he's had, and I think that kind of carries over into every part of his life."

It remains to be seen how long Bridgewater will play against his former team tonight.

But when he does take the field at the Superdome, Zimmer said it will be business as usual against an opposing quarterback.

"We are going to try and hit him just like we do every other quarterback," Zimmer said.

The Vikings defense will do just that, even if they are secretly rooting for Bridgewater himself on the inside.

"Always," said Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks. "Teddy … I always root for Teddy."

Added Cook with a laugh: "I'm definitely rooting for him. But I'm not rooting for his team."