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Broncos' Bridgewater understands significance of starting first game

Shelby Harris says players taking awful Septembers 'personally'
Teddy Bridgewater
Posted at 3:21 PM, Sep 01, 2021

ENGLEWOOD -- When Teddy Bridgewater takes the first snap on Sept. 12, he will make history.

Bridgewater represents the first Black quarterback to start a Broncos' opener. Marlin Briscoe paved the way five decades ago as the first Black quarterback to start a game in the modern NFL. It wasn't Denver's first game.

So, Bridgewater understands the significance.

"It's a great milestone," Bridgewater said when I asked him about it. "There will be a ton of young athletes who come after me and hopefully I can be a source of motivation to them, moving forward, whether it's Black quarterbacks who are kids right now. It's a unique opportunity I am grateful for. I get to go out and compete for this organization and hopefully try to get the organization back to where it was in 2015."

In 1968, the Broncos started 0-3 when Briscoe took over in the fourth quarter of the home opener. He played in 11 games, passing for 14 touchdowns, while rushing for 308. He was not given another chance. The Broncos have named their coaching internship after Briscoe, which was announced this summer.

For Bridgewater, this chance with the Broncos remains meaningful on multiple levels. It represents his rebound from his one uneven season in Carolina. And it provides him an avenue to guide a team to the playoffs for the first time since 2015 in Minnesota.

"It can't be talk. Every day we step foot in this building and come out here (for practice), we all have to have the same mindset and the common goal, and that's the thing I love about football. It's the ultimate team sport," Bridgewater said. "You put aside your personal goals and your ego to come together for one common goal and that's to win. You can sense that around here. Everyone has that mindset of whatever it takes. It's not about me, it's not about the next guy, it's about the team and I love being part of that."

While Teddy has been Steady at different points in his career, he must improve on last season when he finished with a career-high 15 touchdowns and 11 touchdowns. If the offensive line takes a step forward, allowing for the run game to blossom, Bridgewater has the weapons available for success with Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick, K.J. Hamler and tight ends Noah Fant -- he's expected to recover from a leg injury and play in the opener -- and Albert Okwuegbunam.

"It's all good. I am looking forward to working with Teddy. He tells you where he wants you to be and where he needs you to be," said Jerry Jeudy, who enters his sophomore season with lofty expectations. "So having a guy like that, knowing what he wants, it really helps you as a receiver so he can get you the ball."

All Gas, No Brakes
September is a time for pumpkin spice lattes, Earth, Wind & Fire melodies and the Broncos losing on Sundays. They have dropped eight straight in this month, including seven under coach Vic Fangio. Enough already, said Shelby Harris.

"We have sucked in September. We all know it. It's something we have talked about. It's something we have to fix," Harris admitted. "It's all about playing with confidence and knowing who you are. Here's my thing, this team, you look at the defense, everyone is expecting us to do great things. Well the reason I know we will is everybody on here takes everything personally. Everybody wants to be the best. We keep talking about how we have started slowly the last two years, and that's unacceptable. We can't keep stumbling out of the blocks."

Las Vegas reinforces Harris' points. According to SuperBook Sports, the Broncos are favored in their first three games at the Giants, Jaguars and in the home opener against the Jets, teams that combined for a 9-28 record last season.

Running back Royce Freeman, a former third-round draft choice, lost out in a roster crunch Wednesday. The Broncos claimed running back Nate McCrary from the Ravens and Detroit Lions cornerback Mike Ford. The addition of McCrary, who should play more special teams than Freeman would have, spelled the end for the veteran. Denver cut defensive end Jonathan Harris to clear a spot for Ford. ....

As planned by general manager George Paton, the Broncos brought back veterans Cam Fleming (offensive tackle) and Shamar Stephen (defensive tackle). The two were re-signed after Denver placed running back Mike Boone (quadriceps) and cornerback Michael Ojemudia (hamstring) on the short-term injured reserve. They are eligible to return after the third week of the season. ...

Denver filled out 14 of 16 positions on its practice squad with players who were in camp. The list: WR Tyrie Cleveland, WR Seth Williams, WR Kendall Hinton, T Drew Himmelman, T Quinn Bailey, TE Shaun Beyer, G/C Austin Schlottmann, QB Brett Rypien, RB Damarea Crockett, DL Marquiss Spencer, CB Nate Hairston, LB Barrington Wade, LB Curtis Robinson and CB Mac McCain III.