Matt Rhule acknowledges need to improve, but likes how Teddy Bridgewater has handled things

Teddy Bridgewater and Matt Rhule

CHARLOTTE – Of course it's uncomfortable, and perhaps even a little awkward.

But Panthers head coach Matt Rhule made it clear Wednesday, that no matter what happens, he trusts quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to be an adult.

The Panthers' situation with Bridgewater was the elephant in the room at Rhule's first press conference since the day after the regular season. Since then, the Panthers have been mentioned in a number of stories about quarterbacks not named Teddy Bridgewater, as you might have noticed.

Rhule said he hears it from neighbors and people around Charlotte, and he points out to them that not everything you hear on the internet is true (even if some of it is).

"Teddy is a tremendous professional, and a tremendous person," Rhule said. "So I can't speak for him, but I think he's controlling what he can control, he's having a great offseason, I'm sure. I can't wait to get him back here. I think he's determined to play his best football next year.

"As far as where he stands with us, he's our quarterback. Nothing's changed since the end of the offseason. It's really not much to add from where we started at the end of the year. We're going to continue to try to improve the roster at every position, through free agency, through the draft, and through development. We expect players to play better than they played last year, we expect coaches to coach better than they coached last year, and that's at every position."

All those things can be true, but human beings are still on the other side of the cold calculations of salary caps and rosters. 

Asked about Bridgewater's social media habits, Rhule cracked: "He didn't unfollow me."

"I have talked to Teddy," Rhule said. "A, he's someone I like talking to and B, he's a true professional. I've talked to him in terms of life type stuff and he's been really good. . . .

"It's just honesty. Teddy's a professional football player. He knows the business, just like all of our guys. Everyone understands the business aspects of it. I want to coach. I don't want to be involved too much in the business aspect of it. But Teddy's a true professional. There's not one part of me that feels like I have to talk to him about stuff like that."

Rhule mentioned Bridgewater winning the NFL's Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award as evidence of the respect he has in the league, and also his resilience after coming back from his horrible knee injury in 2016.

"No matter what we throw at Teddy, there's not a better guy on this team than Teddy Bridgewater," Rhule said. "I have no concerns about anything character-wise with him at all. Not one bit, with anything that happens.

"He's a guy who wants to play his best football next year and is training to do so, and I think no matter what, . . . There's not a better person to have in the locker room, a better person to have on the team. I think most of the guys will say that. There's no concern there. No matter what's thrown at Teddy Bridgewater, he's going to take it on just like he took on his knee injury. He's a quality, quality, quality person."

(That's three qualities, if you're keeping score.)

Of course, none of that means any job on the roster is totally secure. The Panthers draft eighth overall, the range in which you're obliged to scout all the top college quarterbacks even if you don't end up taking one.

So for the next few months, all Rhule can do is rave about the kind of person Bridgewater is, a task made easier by the fact it happens to be true. Whether it means anything for the 2021 season is something neither of them can know at the moment.

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