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[quote]>Teddy Bridgewater can’t help but smile these days.Even through the sweat and exhaustion that mark the blazing hot days of training camp [url=http://www.newyorkgiantsteamonline.com/lawrence-taylor-jersey]Lawrence Taylor Jersey[/url] , the New York Jets quarterback still appreciates the little things about being a professional football player.Because he almost wasn’t anymore.“I get excited every day I get to get my ankles taped, lace my cleats up and run out of the locker room and practice because it was taken away from me for two years,” Bridgewater said after a recent practice.“To be able to just wake up and know you have the opportunity to continue to do something that you love doing, it’s a great feeling.”Bridgewater has the type of perspective few players ever get, or want to get, for that matter. He was able to come back from the type of injury that would end most playing careers.But when the Jets open their preseason schedule Friday night against the Atlanta Falcons, Bridgewater will step on the field 鈥?and probably smile some more.And then, he’ll get under center for what will likely be his most extensive game action in almost two years.“Right now, I am doing everything I dreamed of doing and that is waking up and continuing to play football,” Bridgewater said. “It’s a wonderful feeling. It gives me the chills right now just thinking about it, knowing how the previous two years were. But you take advantage of this opportunity. I look forward to every day.“Some people may say, ‘This is training camp. This is the grind of things, and I can’t wait to get to the regular season, things will be easier,” but I look forward to it. You embrace the grind because it was once taken from you.”On Aug. 30, 2016, the former Louisville star was practicing with the Minnesota Vikings when he went down with a non-contact injury. He tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and dislocated the knee joint [url=http://www.officialhockeyusashop.com/pittsburgh-penguins/derick-brassard-jersey]Adidas Derick Brassard Jersey[/url] , and it is believed that only quick work by the team training staff and doctors saved Bridgewater’s leg.Playing football again didn’t seem likely, given the severity of the injury. But Bridgewater never gave up believing in a big-time comeback.“Never, never,” he said. “I had nothing but positive thoughts. I didn’t allow any negativity to even creep into my circle. I knew that if I’m negative, I’m going to have those negative thoughts and it may hinder my progress.”So, Bridgewater approached his recovery and arduous rehabilitation with the same type of determination.He learned to move his leg again. And walk. Then, jog. And, now, run.Bridgewater gradually regained strength in his knee and trusted that it would hold up when he dropped back to throw a pass.On Dec. 17, 2017 鈥?nearly 16 months after he went down in a heap of pain and uncertainty 鈥?Bridgewater walked onto the field at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis in the fourth quarter against Cincinnati. The fans gave him a standing ovation, and he went on to throw two passes in the Vikings’ 34-7 win, including one that was intercepted.The stats didn’t matter. He had made it back.Just as he always believed.“I definitely feel like I’m good,” Bridgewater said of his health. “I’ve been working with the training staff here and we’ve been hitting it hard, and I’m excited. I’m looking forward to these upcoming preseason games and just getting out there and having fun playing football again.”The Vikings moved on from Bridgewater during the offseason and allowed him to become a free agent. The Jets, with uncertainty at the quarterback position, signed him to a one-year deal.The also brought back Josh McCown, the incumbent starter [url=http://www.cardinalscheapstore.com/josh-rosen-jersey-cheap]Cheap Josh Rosen Jersey[/url] , and drafted Sam Darnold, the No. 3 overall pick out of USC who is considered the future of the franchise. Having them on the field with Bridgewater this summer has made for an intriguing quarterback competition.“He has been a great team player, great in the meeting room and for the guys as well,” coach Todd Bowles said of Bridgewater. “I’ve got to say, this is the best three-quarterback combination room I’ve been around from a mental standpoint, so that is great to have.”McCown is No. 1 on the depth chart, followed by Bridgewater and Darnold, and all three have had up-and-down moments on the field this summer. Off the field, all three quarterbacks have repeatedly talked about the camaraderie they have quickly established. And, there’s a ton of respect for Bridgewater willing himself to even get back to this point.“Obviously, he’s had a long road recovery-wise from his knee, but his mind has been on football,” McCown said. “You can tell he’s sharp and I’ve been really impressed with everything he’s done. I think the future is really bright for Teddy. I’m excited for him.”Bridgewater has been checking off milestones for most of the past 24 months. He’s not sure how long he’ll play Friday night, but whatever he does will be another positive.The next goal on his list, though, is yet to be determined.“I have to sit down and think about the next milestone,” Bridgewater said. “But for now [url=http://www.dolphinscheapstore.com/minkah-fitzpatrick-jersey-cheap]Minkah Fitzpatrick Youth Jersey[/url] , it’s just living in the moment, enjoying this opportunity and taking advantage of it.” The theatrics came from all the usual suspects.
So did the silence.
Antonio Brown, just weeks after wondering aloud why he receives so much attention, arrived in a helicopter with his family in tow not far from a Nike-sponsored bus emblazed with his latest hashtag ”Destroy Doubt” splashed above the front.
Vince Williams stalked out of his black pickup truck wearing a studded leather vest and hauling a championship wrestling belt while his stereo blasted WWE Hall of Famer ”Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s theme music.
Yet the loudest statement by a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers as the defending AFC North champions arrived for their annual three-week stay at Saint Vincent College came from someone who didn’t say anything at all.
While his teammates carried their gear into dorms then headed to the practice field for light conditioning work, All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell stayed away.
The optimism that Bell and the Steelers preached during the offseason about the prospects of signing a long-term deal has faded, replaced by the reality that he will likely wait until the end of camp to sign his one-year franchise tender to start what could be his final year in Pittsburgh.
”It’s a business,” Brown said. ”Everyone (has) got to do what’s right for their business. When he comes we’ll welcome him.”
Even if the men Bell lines up with would like to see him a little earlier than they did in 2017. Bell waited until Labor Day to sign his franchise tender and although he arrived in shape, it took several weeks for him to get rolling. Bell averaged 103 total yards during Pittsburgh’s sluggish 3-2 start then put up 143 total yards per game during a 10-1 sprint to the finish.
Given a choice, the Steelers would prefer not to have to wait for one of the NFL’s most versatile players to start playing like one.
”I’m going to send him a text like, `Yo, come in four days earlier, try to get a couple practices in,” center Maurkice Pouncey said with a laugh.
Coach Mike Tomlin called his communication with Bell ”fluid” and ”normal” but declined to get into specifics.
”I’ll leave the details of it between him and I,” Tomlin said. ”I want to stay focused on the guys that are here.”
Good luck with that.
While second-year back James Conner, rookie Jaylen Samuels and veteran Stevan Ridley will get plenty of chances to show Tomlin and offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner – promoted in January when Todd Haley’s contract was not renewed – what they can do, the starting job goes to Bell the second he walks through the door.
The 25-year-old remains a vital part of Pittsburgh’s best chance at unseating New England atop the AFC. He shouldn’t lack for motivation after the Los Angeles Rams signed Todd Gurley to a contract extension on Thursday that made him the highest-paid running back in the league. At least, that is [url=http://www.eaglesauthorizedshops.com/authentic-dallas-goedert-jersey]Dallas Goedert Eagles Jersey[/url] , until Bell potentially hits the open market next spring.
”No matter what he’s going to get paid eventually,” said Pouncey of Bell, who is guaranteed to make $14.5 million this season.
Bell tweeted out “lol and ppl thought I was tripping?” after the terms of Gurley’s deal were released and later added ”I’m actually extremely happy” when someone on Twitter suggested he was ”mad” at the Steelers.
Still, the inability for Bell and the team that took him in the second round of the 2013 draft to find common financial ground over the course of two straight offseasons virtually assures that Bell will be playing elsewhere in 2019. His looming departure adds a level of urgency to a core group that has reached the playoffs four straight years, but has been unable to get to a Super Bowl despite its considerable star power.
”Time is running out for everybody,” Pouncey said. ”I know it’s all fun and games for everybody at the beginning, but man it’s time to win. It’s been too long.”
The past six months may have been the most painful after Pittsburgh rolled through a 13-3 regular season only to get stunned at home by Jacksonville in the divisional round.
”Honestly we didn’t think they could score 45 points in my opinion but hell, they showed me wrong,” Pouncey said.
And now the Steelers must press forward. They’ve totally revamped the secondary. The linebackers must find a way to cope without the injured Ryan Shazier. The strength remains on the offense, one that will spend the next six weeks getting adjusted to Fichtner’s playbook while wondering when Bell’s familiar No. 26 will jog on the field.
”Every year there’s always pressure to win the trophy,” Brown said. ”And this year will be a lot more added pressure.”
NOTES: The Steelers agreed to terms with free agent wide receiver Eli Rogers, who will remain on the Physically Unable to Perform list while he recovers from knee surgery. … Rookie S Terrell Edmunds reported for camp on time. The first-round pick didn’t sign his contract until Tuesday, but says he was never concerned about missing time.
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