BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Just because Andy Reid refused to talk about it doesn't mean the reality is any less grim.
Middle linebacker Stewart Bradley's season is over because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, but Reid refused to lead off his news conference after practice yesterday with his trademark injury report, choosing instead to cite a rules violation by the local media.
"I made a pact with you guys when I first got here that I would disclose to you the injuries - just stay away from the players and stay away from other personnel in the organization and I would take care of you with that," Reid said. "That part was breached and so we'll get on with the Flight Night part of things. Flight Night was a good experience for the players, the fans, the coaches."
Flight Night, staged Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field, wasn't such a great experience for Bradley, who was injured early in the practice and underwent an MRI examination yesterday.
Multiple sources confirmed that Bradley suffered the season-ending torn ACL, and the third-year middle linebacker emerged from the locker room at Lehigh University with his right knee in a brace late yesterday afternoon.
Approached by reporters, Bradley said, "I got specific instructions" not to talk about his injury.
"I think [Reid] is pretty adamant about not addressing this issue," Bradley said. "Something made him super [mad]."
Bradley led the Eagles with 151 tackles last season, according to the team, and was the signal caller on defense.
"It's a major loss," Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb said. "Stewart is a guy that I thought was really stepping into his own at the middle linebacker position. He was able to do a lot of different things besides just stopping the run. He was able to be that leader. He was able to do well in the pass game. Obviously, he set the tone for those guys on the defensive side."
And now he's finished for the season.
"It's very unfortunate because, to me, he's a guy built like [Brian] Urlacher," cornerback Sheldon Brown said. "I'm not comparing him to Urlacher, but he's that body type and he can cover a lot of ground with his size and his athletic ability. You can do a lot of things with him, and he was growing."
This is the first big challenge for Sean McDermott, but the Eagles' new defensive coordinator seemed undaunted by the loss of Bradley.
"I've told the guys before, and I think this is true every year, there is going to be something or multiple things that happen that we didn't anticipate," McDermott said. "No matter how much you plan, that goes with the territory and how we respond to those times will determine how high that we go and how we fly."
Joe Mays, a sixth-round pick out of North Dakota State last year, worked with the first-team defense during yesterday's brief practice, and McDermott believes he is ready for the role.
"Sure," McDermott said. "Joe is a natural linebacker. The things we've seen and the body of work he's displayed up until this point, those are the types of things we're looking for in a middle linebacker."
Mays' body of work is actually quite limited. He dressed for just two games last year and played only on special teams. Brown said Mays has improved immensely since last year.
"It's night and day from year one to year two," Brown said. "To me, he's one of those old-school players that is committed. He looks like one of those old-school players. I'm anxious to see him get an opportunity in the preseason to prove to everybody what he can do. I believe in him. He brings a punch with him."
Unlike Bradley, who never left the field, Mays is likely to share time with Omar Gaither, who worked with the first-team nickel defense during practice.
"We feel good about Joe and the same thing with Omar," McDermott said. "Omar brings a lot of experience to the table. He did a heck of a job for us last year and a heck of a job the year before that playing the middle linebacker position. We feel like we have some flexibility there. We talked about it before. The best 11 are going to play, but that doesn't mean the best 11 are going to be the same all three downs."
The Stewart Bradley File
NFL experience: Two seasons.
Height, weight: 6-foot-4, 255 pounds.
Acquired by the Eagles: In the third round of the 2007 draft (87th overall).
Leading linebacker: He called the defensive signals last season.