ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Teddy Bridgewater is OK.
Above all else, let's start there, because before wins and losses and postseason berths, that's what matters most.
The last time Bridgewater took a snap, he suffered a frightening injury that required him to be carted off the field and eventually ended his season. After spending the night in a local hospital, he was placed in the league's concussion protocol and did not return to the field. Bridgewater was eventually placed on injured reserve this week.
But despite the hit he took against the Bengals in Week 15, Bridgewater is OK — and he plans to continue playing football.
"I'm doing well," Bridgewater said. "It happens. It's part of the game — things happen, plays happen. I'm happy that I'm able to just smile right here in front of you guys, and I'm able to still walk, talk and be my normal self."
Bridgewater said he and the team had conversations about how to approach the rest of the season given that he suffered a concussion against the Ravens earlier in the year, but he declined to go into specifics. Bridgewater, though, said there is a reason he will continue to play this game.
"I always say that every time I get hit or every time I hit the ground, I ask God, 'Why am I doing this?'" Bridgewater said. "Then when I get up and when I come to work on Wednesday and see these guys working hard, that's why you do it. The interaction you have with the guys in the locker room, the smiles you put on the fans' faces and the feeling of competing — that's why you do this."
Bridgewater, who was named the Darrent Williams Good Guy Award winner for his interactions with the media, was the pulse of that locker room for much of the year. And while he put together a productive season on the field, throwing for a career-high 18 touchdowns in 14 games, his leadership really stood out to Head Coach Vic Fangio.
"I think he had some really good games for us," Fangio said Thursday. "He had a very positive effect on our team. Obviously, particularly on the offense, but for the team as a whole with his leadership capabilities, his confidence, [and] his everyday demeanor. I think it really helped our offense grow. We won seven games with him in there as the starter and I just think Teddy is an NFL starting quarterback that has great intangibles and great qualities that you can't coach."
Bridgewater, never one this year to be satisfied with his own play, said he wished he'd been able to do more for his team ahead of the injury. While he pushed the Broncos to 7-6 and created an opportunity to get to the postseason, he said he wished he'd left his teammates in a better spot.
"It's difficult knowing that you didn't put the team in position to where if something like this did come up, you could afford to not win a game or two," Bridgewater said. "I wish we could have been 10-3 or something, and whatever happens after that. I'm pleased that the guys are competing every day still. I'm proud of this crew. We get one more opportunity to go out there and compete. I'm happy I get to be on the sideline this week to watch the guys. I look forward to that."
Bridgewater, though, noted that his teammates did accomplish a fair bit this year — and he congratulated them on the success they did find.
"It's so easy to point out 'OK, a roster of this caliber,' and things like that," Bridgewater said. "But it's a competitive league, and this division is talented as well. So yeah, you're disappointed because you didn't make the playoffs. We had an opportunity going into December, and that's all you ever ask for. You can sit here and point out all the things that didn't go well, but guys did some special things this year. I want to congratulate the guys for just how hard they worked this year. It's not easy to win in this league. Yeah, on pen and paper you may have a roster that says you should go into every game with the win or this and that, but the guys we play against, they get paid as well. They're talented, they're in this league as well for a reason. I really just want to congratulate the guys for working hard, being true pros every day, fighting through adversity, difficult times, whether it was injuries, the COVID issues, different things that might have taken place throughout this year. Guys have been true pros. No one really hid in their shell and started pointing fingers. It just speaks a lot about the guys that we have on this team."
As for himself, Bridgewater isn't concerning himself with his future as he approaches free agency. One thing he did make clear, though, was how much respect and appreciation he has for his time in Denver.
"I'm just trying to make it through the day, every day," Bridgewater said of his future. "Every day I wake up, it's how can I be a better man, a better father? I can't look too far down the road. But I've enjoyed everything about this organization. It's been first-class. It's a true professional organization. They treat the guys like pros. I have appreciated every day, every opportunity, every moment that I've had here. It's been a breath of fresh air this entire season. I've had a number of reasons to smile, and I'm just thankful that I had this opportunity. I thank [General Manager] George [Paton] for pulling the trigger and making the trade, I thank Vic for giving me the opportunity, this team for welcoming me and accepting me — even the fans. Yeah, it wasn't the type of year that we wanted it to be. But just the love that we've received from the fans this year, we really appreciate it. It's a special place."