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Bridgewater ready to replace Newton: 'I just have to be myself'

Teddy Bridgewater acknowledged Thursday the possible awkwardness of replacing Cam Newton, who for nine years served as the face of the Carolina Panthers.

"I'm aware of the situation,"

the 27-year-old quarterback told reporters during his introductory conference call, according to Steve Reed of The Associated Press. "It's a unique situation. I just have to be myself."

Bridgewater signed a three-year, $63-million deal with the Panthers in free agency last week, paving the way for the release of Newton, a former MVP. Bridgewater spent the last two years as a backup with the New Orleans Saints but went 5-0 as a starter in 2019 when Drew Brees was sidelined with a thumb injury.

The Louisville product said he hasn't spoken to Newton since agreeing to terms with Carolina, but called him "a great guy."

A former first-round pick, Bridgewater started 30 games for the Minnesota Vikings from 2014-15 before a devastating knee injury set back his career in 2016. Though he wasn't known for posting prolific numbers, he did lead the Vikings to the playoffs in 2015.

"I understand what it takes to be a quarterback in this league," Bridgewater said. He added: "I'm a winner and everywhere I have gone I have won."

The Panthers will be Bridgewater's fourth NFL team, but they'll be the first club to install him as a full-time starter since his knee injury.

"This is an opportunity for me to grow and compete and show I deserve to play in this league," Bridgewater said.

He continued: "I am better than what I was a couple of years ago."

Bridgewater is joining a team in transition. This offseason has seen Carolina bid farewell to longtime cornerstones such as Newton, Luke Kuechly, Greg Olsen, and Mario Addison.