CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WTVD) -- Teddy Bridgewater said Wednesday that there is no rivalry between the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints -- and that it is the most important game just because it's the next game on the schedule.
There's no doubt, however, that there will be some type of emotion Sunday when Bridgewater, now the Panthers' starting quarterback, reunites with his former teammates and coaches.
"That defensive front, linebackers, secondary I've got nothing but respect for them," Bridgewater said. "That team and their organization. I understand that they have some guys who I may have been off limits towards me when I was there for two years but we just want to go out there and play the game how we know how to play, not get caught up in the moment and just make the game what it is and respect our opponent."
The Mercedes-Benz Superdome will feel a lot different to Bridgewater, who spent the 2018 and 2019 season with the Saints. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be just 3,000 fans inside the stadium.
"I'm actually happy about that," Bridgewater said. "I know how loud that fan base can be. They love their Saints. Hopefully, it's just one of those deals where we can make it all about the game and not about everything on the outside ... we just want to go in with the right mindset that we can't try to prove a point toward anyone. (Panthers offensive coordinator) Joe (Brady) can't try to prove anything to Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints. I can't try to prove anything to anyone. We just have to play the game the way we know how to play it, and that's the brand we've been playing in Carolina."
There's no doubt that Payton, the Saints head coach, played a big role in Bridgewater's ability to overcome adversity after his injury in 2016 and earn a starting spot in the NFL.
"When I was a free agent after the '18 season, Sean had just talked to me," Bridgewater said. "He just so happened to be in the Bahamas and he just told me he had a vision for me and to trust that before I make a decision, just hear him out. His vision was if you're not going to go somewhere that's going to guarantee you some security, then trust me, you pretty much come back here and within a year from now I'm pretty sure you'll be where you want to be. That meant a lot from me and he showed me that he really wanted me there and I'm just thankful and grateful that I ever crossed paths with him."
Bridgewater says New Orleans was the place where he learned how to have fun playing football again and not just think of it as a job. He added that the culture did a lot for him going forward.
The Panthers (3-3) and Saints (3-2) kick off at 1 p.m. Sunday.