CHARLOTTE – Nothing about last season was easy for any NFL player.
Much less a quarterback who had to replace a former MVP on a new team, in a new city, under a new coach, during a worldwide pandemic.
Being able to handle all those challenges with grace earned Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater the notice of his peers.
Bridgewater was this year's recipient of the Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award, the league announced at the NFL Honors show Saturday.
The award is presented each year to a player who best demonstrates the qualities of on-field sportsmanship, including fair play, respect for the game and opponents, and integrity in competition.
Coming back from a traumatic knee injury in 2016 to get back on the field at all required a resilience not every player has, and Bridgewater put in his time in New Orleans as a backup (going 5-0 in 2019), as he waited for his chance to become a starter again.
"I really just cherish this game because it's taken me places that I couldn't imagine," Bridgewater said. "It's allowed me to encounter different individuals from all across the world. On this journey, I've been able to befriend some people. You know, I still have great people I'm associated with to this day. This game has done so much for me. It's allowed me to meet different people, and everyone has a story. Everyone has a different upbringing and different background, and to be a part of someone's journey is a huge feeling.
"It's a huge blessing just knowing that whether it's on the playing field, being the best sportsman that I can be, or being the best teammate I can be around the locker room, I take pride in that."
He joins former Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly (2017) in winning the award.
Bridgewater also won the Charlotte chapter of the Pro Football Writers Association's "Good Guy" award for his availability and accountability through a season when interviews had to be conducted virtually.