EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Like everyone else, the Minnesota Vikings' brain trust wasn't exactly blown away by Teddy Bridgewater's pro day throwing session March 17 at Louisville.
But team officials saw a different guy weeks later at a private throwing session, Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said Thursday night, shortly after the team traded back into the final slot in the NFL draft's first round and took Bridgewater 32nd overall.
"Totally different," Spielman said. "And then to see him respond to the way Norv (Turner, the Vikings' offensive coordinator) and Scott (Turner, the quarterbacks coach) were coaching him during that workout was remarkable.
"That said, this guy is what we saw on tape."
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Bridgewater passed for 9,817 yards and 72 touchdowns in three seasons as the starter at Louisville and was projected as the possible No. 1 overall draft pick just a few months ago. But the pro day started a seven-week run of media criticism and speculation he might not even be taken in Round 1.
It was close, but the Vikings shipped pick No. 40 plus a fourth rounder to the Seattle Seahawks to move up eight spots — a move driven in part by the fact taking Bridgewater in the first round instead of early in the second would give them a fifth-year option on his rookie contract.
"You know the thing I like the most about him? He wins," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said of Bridgewater, who was 27-8 as the starter in a pro-style offense at Louisville.
"Everywhere he's ever been, he wins. Starts as a freshman in high school, wins. Starts as a freshman in college and wins. This guy — he's got something about him."
So, what happened at the pro day?
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Zimmer suggested it was Bridgewater's decision not to wear a glove on his throwing hand, as he did throughout his college career. For the private workout with the Vikings, it was back on.
"It was a decision that I made based off the way I was training prior to the pro day," Bridgewater said. "But walking away from the pro day, I learned a valuable lesson to just continue to do what got you here and do what you're comfortable doing."
One other factor in Bridgewater's favor with the Vikings: an analytical study that showed he was the best of the draft's quarterbacks against the blitz.
"He's very cool and calm under pressure," Spielman said. "He has mobility in the pocket to make plays."
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Quarterback waited until the final pick of the first round on Thursday but found his landing spot in Minnesota.
It was the third time in three years Spielman had traded back into the bottom of the first round, helping the Vikings amass seven first-round picks in that span. They took UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr at No. 9 on Thursday after trading down one spot with the Cleveland Browns.
Spielman acknowledged the Vikings had talks about moving up higher into the bottom half of the first round to take a quarterback but wouldn't comment when asked if it was for Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, who went to the Browns at No. 22 instead.
Unlike Manziel, who figures to start from Day 1, Bridgewater may sit for a while. The Vikings re-signed veteran Matt Cassel to a two-year, $10.5 million contract in March and still have Christian Ponder, their first-round pick three years ago.
According to Spielman, the Vikings learned lessons from Ponder's stunted development about not rushing a young quarterback into action, though neither he nor Zimmer would rule out Bridgewater competing for the job as a rookie.
Said Zimmer: "Teddy will play when we feel like he's ready — if he's the best guy, which we hope that he will."
Follow Tom Pelissero on Twitter @TomPelissero
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