MANKATO, Minn. -- On Friday night, Teddy Bridgewater will play his first NFL game, in a college stadium that's hosted exactly one of them before, officially putting an end to what might turn out to be the most bizarre stretch of his career. He hasn't been hit by a defender in more than eight months, since Louisville's win over Miami in the 2013 Russell Athletic Bowl, but he was dinged by enough scouts and analysts in the months that followed to drop from a possible No. 1 overall pick to the final selection of the first round.
In the Minnesota Vikings' preseason opener against the Oakland Raiders, Bridgewater will return to an actual football game, the environment where he's best been able to show his wares. He isn't expected to start, but coach Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner both said this week Bridgewater will get some first-team snaps, and the rookie is preparing to be on the field for a good chunk of the night.
"Coach Turner hasn't mentioned to me about taking me out any time soon," Bridgewater said. "I'm just going to continue to compete until my number's called to come out."
Bridgewater said he isn't nervous about his first action in a professional game, adding that cornerback Xavier Rhodes sounded more nervous for Bridgewater than the quarterback did for himself in a conversation at dinner on Monday night. He quipped that "it's felt like 100 years since I've actually taken a hit," and sounded more excited than he did nervous. Considering he'll be back in an environment where he'll actually have some control over shaping the opinion of him, he should be excited.
"It's a dream come true to finally be able to play your first game in the National Football League," Bridgewater said. "I've been playing football since I was five years old. I've just been waiting on this moment."