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At 'Teddy Two Gloves Passing Academy,' Bridgewater asserts self

MINNEAPOLIS -- The common refrain from the Minnesota Vikings braintrust this offseason, as it relatess to quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, has been a call for assertiveness in some form or another. Whether it has been general manager Rick Spielman saying the Vikings want to see the 23-year-old "let it loose," or coach Mike Zimmer urging Bridgewater to take charge of the offense, it's clear that by this time next year, the Vikings aim to have a quarterback who exerts greater autonomy than he has in his first two seasons.

That process will be smoother if running back Adrian Peterson makes good on his January pledge to become a more versatile part of the offense, but the Vikings also believe Bridgewater can help it happen by worrying less about mistakes and playing with a greater sense of command. And if that's what Vikings leadership wants to see, the team's receivers believe they already saw some of it last month in Florida.

Bridgewater invited the Vikings' wide receivers, along with tight ends Kyle Rudolph and MyCole Pruitt, to ESPN's Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando earlier this month, for several days of workouts. The Vikings spent some time with performance coach Tom Shaw, but much of their work was directed by the quarterback, who arranged the schedule and selected the workouts.

A year ago, Bridgewater worked out with Vikings receivers in Southern California, where Rudolph was training. This year, it was in Bridgewater's home state, at his leading, in what receiver Cordarrelle Patterson dubbed the "Teddy Two Gloves Passing Academy."

The Vikings likely won't mind the moniker.

"He set everything up. He organized everything,” wide receiver Adam Thielen said. “He did a great job of getting us out there, and kind of leading the show. He had a structure; we were in and out. It was great. ... We didn't have to do much, as far as planning. It's nice to have a leader like that."

It was a precursor to the Vikings' offseason program, which began Monday and will find Bridgewater trying to improve a passing game that ranked 31st in the league last season. The Vikings leaned heavily on Peterson as their offensive line sprung leaks, and it meant a more conservative passing approach than they might have preferred. "What was asked of my position, I think we did a good job of doing what was asked of it," Bridgewater said in January.

He probably will be asked to do more in 2016, and he will have to show he can handle it, in an important season for both the quarterback's future and the Vikings' present opportunity to make a playoff push. Offseason work with Bridgewater, the Vikings' receivers hope, can catalyze that development.

"Everything went smooth,” said receiver Stefon Diggs, who added he'll spend some time with Bridgewater in South Florida later this offseason. “This was the first time everybody got together as a group. Everybody getting in a little earlier than usual. Spending that quality time with your guys is going to pay off in the long run.”