New Eagles QB out to ease doubts
Sam Bradford says he understands the skeptical reception to his trade here, but is eager to prove himself.
MAYBE IT'S just my vivid imagination or maybe it's just the way he talks, but there seemed to be at least a couple of times yesterday when Sam Bradford sounded as if he was about to, well, cry.
The last time came way at the end of the 14-minute news conference introducing him to his new, already-skeptical city, a news conference in which he spoke repeatedly of the two knee injuries that transformed him from Can't Miss to Huge Risk, of the doubts it created among coaches, us, and yes, for a while, him, too.
"There was a very brief period of time where I wasn't sure I wanted to go through it all again," he said of the second ACL tear in his left knee that cost him the entire 2014 season. "But I went home, kind of cleared my head for a week and realized there was no way that football can not be a part of my life . . .
"I think I found that I truly love this game. I've had it taken away from me twice in the past 2 years. And I think when something's taken away from you like that, you really, really realize how much you love it."
So that's who you're getting in place of Nick Foles, your feel-good story of 2013 whose bumpy 2014 season was cut short by injury. Sam Bradford, the former No. 1 overall pick whose spectacular rookie season 5 long, arduous years ago suggested he would be among the elites by now, someone capable of repeated playoff appearances and recurring trips to the Super Bowl.
Sam Bradford, cursed as if the subject of a Stephen King novel, injuries robbing him of games, of seasons, of glory.
Of his destiny, really.
"No one likes to be injured, no one wants to be injured, no one asks to be injured," he said. "I think it's just something that happens and you just have to deal with it and make the best of it. And that's what I'm trying to do with this fresh start right now."
Fresh start. Elite talent. As Chip Kelly said about 100 times when he finally poked his head above ground yesterday - a sure sign of spring - Sam Bradford is an Eagles quarterback only because of his misfortune. It's a bet, pure and simple, a risky investment in a firm with all kinds of upside, if it doesn't go belly up first.
When he's been healthy - in 2010, in 2012, and for the first half of 2013, Bradford has been every bit the elite quarterback that had the league salivating over him. He threw for 3,512 yards as a rookie, 3,702 yards in 2012. He made quick decisions, the ball came out fast, his arm was strong, his drop was breathtakingly quick. He cared for the ball, ran the offense as if he invented it.
"The kid," Kelly said yesterday, "is wired right."
He won the 2008 Heisman as a sophomore, won the NFL Rookie of the Year award before the injury bug - which hounded his junior season at Oklahoma - stung him again in his second season as a pro. He bounced back from that with that huge 2012, started on fire in 2013, and then, splat. Off to rehab.
Bradford believes he was poised for a huge season last summer. He had used the rehab to watch film, work on his game, strengthen himself. The second ACL tear, in his third exhibition game against Cleveland, came out of nowhere, didn't even seem that serious of an injury when it happened.
And that's perhaps the scariest part of all of this. Because despite all of what Kelly said yesterday about the NFL being 100 percent injury-prone, despite Bradford quoting renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews as being very optimistic, good wiring isn't worth a damn if the housing is hopelessly damaged.
"I'd be lying if I said I'm not probably going to be a little nervous the first time I stepped on the field," he said. "I think anyone who has gone through what I've gone through would be a little nervous.
"But once I step out there and the bullets start flying and I take that first hit, I'll be fine."
Oh, yeah, one more thing: He already knows most of you don't believe that. He already knows most of you think too much was sacrificed to get him here.
"I think it's motivation," he said. "I understand it from their standpoint. I'd probably be that way, too.
"I feel I have a lot to prove to everyone in this building. I think coach Kelly took a leap of faith bringing me in here. He believes in me. And now it's my time to prove to everyone in this building that I belong here."
On Twitter: @samdonnellon