Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule hasn't had much to smile about lately with his team in a five-game losing streak.
Rhule got some good news Wednesday when quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was able to practice for Sunday's home game against the Detroit Lions.
Bridgewater injured his right knee when he was sacked late in Sunday's 46-23 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"Teddy's a team leader along with being a great quarterback," Rhule said in a conference-call interview with the Detroit media. "He's the heart and soul of our offense. He's been through some tough times, some good times.
"For him on a personal level, I'm glad he's OK and hopeful he can play Sunday."
Carolina's offense already has been hampered by the loss of All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey for seven games with ankle and shoulder injuries.
View photos of the starters for the Carolina Panthers.
Bridgewater's practice participation was listed as "limited" in the official report posted Wednesday.
As for Bridgewater, no one can question his desire and determination to overcome obstacles – qualities that make him a respected leader among teammates past and present.
It's been tough going this year, but Bridgewater has had a winning record at his previous stops with the Vikings and Saints.
Bridgewater, who turned 28 last week, started 12 games and posted a 6-6 won-loss record as a rookie after being drafted by the Vikings in the first round in 2014 out of Louisville. He was 11-5 in 2015 and led the Viking to their first NFC North title since 2009.
Bridgewater's stats were modest – 14 TD passes and 12 interceptions in 2014, 14 TDs and nine picks in 2015 – but he looked like he'd be the Vikings quarterback of the future.
All that was changed by a devastating injury to his left knee sustained in training camp of 2016. Bridgewater missed all of the 2016 season and most of 2017.
He was signed by the Saints in 2018 as a backup to Drew Brees. He played briefly in one game, but went 5-0 as a starter in 2019 when Brees was out with an injury.
Bridgewater was signed by the Panthers --- his third team in four years -- as part of Carolina's rebuild with the departure of former head coach Ron Rivera and franchise quarterback Cam Newton and Rhule's arrival.
Rhule had spent four seasons as head coach at Temple (2013-16) and three at Baylor (2017-19). His previous NFL experience was one season (2012) as assistant offensive line coach of the Giants.
On offense, the absence of McCaffrey leaves a mammoth void both in production and game-planning because of his elite skills as a runner and receiver.
McCaffrey rushed for 1,387 yards and 15 TDs last season and added 116 catches for 1,005 yards and four TDs.
In three games this year he has rushed for 225 yards and five TDs and has 17 receptions for 148 yards and a TD.
Mike Davis has picked up some of the rushing load with 368 yards, two TDs and an average of 4.2 yards per carry. Bridgewater has 198, and wide receiver Curtis Samuel has chipped in with 108 and 4.3 yards per rush.
Wide receiver Robby Anderson, signed as a free agent after four solid seasons with the Jets, was one of Carolina's top offseason additions. He is having a career year – 64 catches for 772 yards and five TDs.
The Panthers have had problems on defense.
The 277 points they've allowed are second most in the NFC. However, they've played 10 games. Dallas has allowed a conference-high 290 in nine games, and the Lions have allowed the third most in the conference with 267 in nine games.
The Panthers have given up 154 points in the five-game losing streak.