MANKATO, Minn. -- If there's been a single unifying theme about Teddy Bridgewater before his third season -- as much from the Minnesota Vikings themselves as from those outside the organization -- it's a need for the quarterback to be more assertive.
This talking point has taken on different forms, from general manager Rick Spielman calling on Bridgewater to "let it loose" more often to coach Mike Zimmer laying out expectations for Bridgewater to take charge of the offense, but there's been no doubt about what the Vikings want from the 23-year-old Bridgewater entering a season many think could extend deep into the playoffs.
As the Vikings begin training camp at Minnesota State University, Bridgewater seems to understand what he needs to do next.
"That’s probably something I should work on. I’m probably going to be more assertive, having more input and things like that," Bridgewater said Thursday. "It’s going to take an entire team effort to get where we want to be."
Bridgewater seemed to be searching for his voice in the offense through much of last season; Zimmer had told the quarterback throughout the season that it was OK to speak his mind about what he preferred in the game plan, and at the end of the regular season, the Vikings had made a subtle shift toward a passing game that played to Bridgewater's strengths. The next step is for Bridgewater to trust himself on tougher throws, hitting receivers in stride on intermediate throws or threading the ball through tighter coverage.
The Vikings have let him know an occasional mistake is more the cost of doing business than a catastrophe, and Zimmer seemed encouraged about what he saw from Bridgewater during the team's offseason program.
All eyes will be on Bridgewater in Mankato, with expectations climbing for the 2016 Vikings. The quarterback who said he wants to be an "image of Coach Zim" was no shrinking violet at the start of camp.
"I welcome pressure, and I’ve been dealing with pressure since I’ve been playing sports," he said. "That’s why I play the position. It’s the most pressure-packed position, and I love it. For me, I welcome it with open arms, and for me, I just love the game. I can’t wait."