INDIANAPOLIS – Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater believes he’s better than Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles and all the other quarterbacks in the draft.
“Yes, no doubt,” Bridgewater said today at the scouting combine. “I feel that I’m the best quarterback in this draft. I’m not just going to sit up here and say it. There’s obviously actions that have to back up these words, and I’m just confident in myself and my capability to be able to play this position. I’m just going to go out there and prove that I’m the best guy.”
Bridgewater said his accuracy – 71 percent last year – separates him from the other prospects, among other things.
“My third-down passing completion percentage was pretty much off the charts, my pocket presence, I’m a competitor,” he said. “Each day I go out there and I’m eager to learn, remain a student of the game, and I think that right there just separates me.”
Bridgewater measured 6-foot-2 1/8 and 214 pounds, about 9 more than he weighed during the season. He wants to reach 220-225 so he can absorb the hits of the NFL.
“I just feel that to play this position you have to have durability, and I just want to prove that I can put on that weight and I am one of those guys who can last a full NFL season,” he said.
Bridgewater and Manziel will run but not throw Sunday. Bortles will do everything.
“The biggest thing was just me being a perfectionist, and I just want everything to go right,” Bridgewater explained. “I just want to have that chemistry with the guys.”
FOCUSED ON FOOTBALL
Missouri All-American defensive end Michael Sam doesn’t want to be defined by his announcement Feb. 9 that he’s gay. He’s the first openly gay draft prospect and would be the first openly gay player.
“I just wish you guys would just see me as Michael Sam the football player instead of Michael Sam the gay football player,” he said.
The crowd of reporters was huge around Sam, who said his life hasn’t changed much since the announcement made him a household name.
“I have no endorsements. I’m just playing and training for the combine and pro day,” he said. “I’m not focusing on anything else but to earn my spot on an NFL team.”
He said the reception he’s received has been great and thanked those at Missouri.
“I mean, the positive outweighs the negative,” Sam said. “I’m kind of surprised, actually. But there’s a lot of supporters, a lot of people want this.”
Sam was asked about the use of homophobic slurs in the locker room.
“I’ve been in locker rooms where all kinds of slurs have been said and I don’t think anyone means it,” he said. “I think a little naive and uneducated but as time goes on everyone will adapt.
“If someone wants to call me a name I’ll have a conversation with that guy and hopefully it won’t lead to anything else.”
PETTINE UNFAZED BY HARBAUGH TRADE TRY
Coach Mike Pettine said he’s unfazed by the report Friday that the Browns came close to trading for 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh before hiring Pettine on Jan. 23.
“I got a phone call saying that report was about to come out and I shot the messenger a little bit,” Pettine said this morning at the scouting combine. “I asked, ‘How does that affect my tenure as the head coach?’ I think my next sentence, I either used the word ‘flying’ followed by something, or referenced a part of a rat’s body.
“It doesn’t faze me. I think that’s noise. That’s something that has no bearing on my job moving forward. That’s a critical thing. A big part of being an NFL head coach is dealing with the noise, dealing with the distractions. Just add that one to list.”
Pettine tried to put a positive spin on the report, even though it means Pettine was another spot down the list of Cleveland’s desired candidates in a coaching search that lasted 25 days.
“What it tells me is that the Cleveland Browns have a desire to win and get this team back to a championship level,” he said. “To me, it shows the commitment.”
Pettine has dealt with a lot in his month on the job. Last week, CEO Joe Banner and general manager Michael Lombardi, who were instrumental in his hiring, were fired and Ray Farmer was promoted to general manager.
Pettine was asked if it seems like there’s more noise in Cleveland than other NFL cities.
“Uh, that is potentially an accurate statement,” he said. “I’d like to think it’s going to get quiet. That’s my goal, is to quiet the noise. The sooner I get off this podium and can go in there and start evaluating players and see if we can find some future Cleveland Browns the better. I know a lot’s happened, but it’s my goal to get the staff I’ve hired moving forward and we can quiet things down and go about the business of winning football games.”
Despite the chaos, Pettine said he hasn’t had second thoughts about taking the job or wondered what he’s gotten himself into.
“No, because that’s negative,” he said. “To me this is a dream come true. I pinch myself every day. I wake up in the morning and say, ‘I’m the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, I can’t wait to get to work.’ There’s so much negative, you can get overwhelmed by it. I don’t see it that way. I know I’m very blessed to be here, that my path was different and I think that’s helped motivate me.
“I’m the proverbial guy from the mailroom. I don’t have the pedigree like some other coaches have that were former players or big-name college coaches. I feel like I’ve worked my way up and had a lot to overcome. I think that’s helped motivate me. That’s been a chip on my shoulder, whether it’s real or perceived, I’ve always been, ‘That guy was just a high school coach’ or ‘That guy was just getting Rex’s coffee.’ That’s what’s motivated me and to me that’s a big part of why I’m here today.”
Pettine touched on a number of other topics:
** He noted quarterback as a position of need, but said that doesn’t mean they’ll take one with the fourth pick in the draft.
“Our quarterback project will be lengthy and take some time, whether it is somebody coming out in this draft or whether it is a veteran,” Pettine said. “(Brian Hoyer) has proven he can be successful in the NFL, but at the same time, you’re always looking to make the team better and that’s the most important position. So we’re going to do a lengthy evaluation on what’s available in the draft, what’s available in free agency, what’s on campus, and make that decision for what’s going to give us the best chance to win.”
** Missouri defensive end Michael Sam, who announced he’s gay and is entering the draft.
“I applaud what he did,” Pettine said. “In the NFL, it’s a results business. Can Michael Sam help the Cleveland Browns win? If he can, then there’s a good chance he’ll be a part of our football team.”
** Center Alex Mack plans to meet with Pettine and his staff to evaluate the situation before he’s scheduled to become a free agent March 11.
“I welcome that because once he sits down and he senses where we’re headed and I can lay out the philosophy and the program from A to Z, and hopefully, we have that shared vision of what it should look like going forward and it’s something he wants to be a part of,” Pettine said. “I am confident when he sits in front of Kyle (Shanahan) and Andy (Moeller) and George DeLeone, that he’ll feel the same way.”
Shanahan is the coordinator, Moeller the line coach and DeLeone the assistant line coach.
** Pettine won’t commit to the 4-3 or 3-4 as his base defense.
“We’re multiple,” he said. “We’ll be in both fronts. And if you can draw the front, we’ll likely be in it. I think that’s been the key to our success, whether it was Rex’s (Ryan) tenure in Baltimore, when I took over in New York, certainly in Buffalo, that we’ll be multiple-front, multiple-coverage.”