Bridgewater looks sharp, healthy in practice with Jets

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Teddy Bridgewater rolled right, kept moving and then zipped a pass down the field on the run.

If his first practice of organized team activities with the New York Jets was a test of his health and confidence, the quarterback passed in a big way. And so did his surgically repaired left knee.

“It feels great,” a smiling Bridgewater said Tuesday.

Bridgewater missed most of the past two seasons after suffering a gruesome, career-threatening injury in August 2016 while with the Minnesota Vikings. He tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee and dislocated the knee joint on a non-contact play that had many wondering if he’d ever play again.

The comeback trail took a positive turn late last season, when he threw two passes — one was intercepted — in a game for the Vikings. But Minnesota moved on from the former Louisville star, who was a first-round pick in 2014, and allowed him to become a free agent.

After signing with the Jets in March, Bridgewater is moving on from his painful past.

“I’m just focused on the now and what’s ahead of me,” he said. “I’m happy to be here. We have a great team, a group of young guys who are anxious to continue to make noise in this league. That’s very exciting to be a part of.”

It was uncertain as to how much Bridgewater would be able to do at the start of OTAs, but the quarterback wasn’t limited at all despite having his left knee wrapped. It was an encouraging performance as he worked behind incumbent starter Josh McCown with the first-team offense in team drills.

“He moved well today,” coach Todd Bowles said.

His throws were mostly sharp, and he scrambled around the field several times — showing some flashes of the playmaking ability that made him a Pro Bowl selection in his second season in 2015.

“I’ve been working with the training staff,” Bridgewater said. “We’ve been making some great progress. The goal is to get better each day. That’s our primary focus right now. That’s my focus as an individual goal, and we’re going to continue to just make those strides.”

Bridgewater adds an interesting element to what will be a must-see quarterback competition, that now won’t include Christian Hackenberg after he was traded to Oakland for a conditional seventh-round draft pick Tuesday.

New York took Sam Darnold with the No. 3 overall pick in the draft last month and the former USC star has already been anointed by many as the franchise quarterback of the future — and maybe of right now.

In his first OTAs practice, the 20-year-old Darnold looked like, well, a rookie. He overthrew a few passes in team drills and had a few throws picked off in the 7-on-7 period. Darnold also fumbled a snap, but it was no cause for alarm.

“It’s Day 1,” Bowles said. “First time going up against a different defense and putting the offense against 11 guys over there.”

McCown was solid as the starter last season, instilling a leadership presence and having a career year while throwing for 2,926 yards and 18 touchdowns before missing the three games with a broken left wrist. But, he’ll turn 39 on July 4 and is clearly not part of the Jets’ long-term plans.

Bridgewater, however, is still just 25 and could give both McCown and Darnold a run for the starting job. Or, perhaps play well enough this summer to be a trade chip for New York.

“Control what you can control,” Bridgewater said. “My primary focus is to be the best teammate I can be, be the best-caliber player I can be to help the New York Jets win football games. We’re going to continue to push each other in that room, motivate each other and it’s going to trickle down the line with everyone in this locker room.”

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