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Eagles' Sam Bradford eager to start

The quarterback, who is coming off two ACL surgeries, says he's looking forward to regular-season action.

Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford says he is excited about the upcoming season.
Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford says he is excited about the upcoming season.Read more(Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

SAM BRADFORD is less than two weeks away from playing in his first NFL regular-season game in nearly two years.

I was curious what he is feeling right now as he tries to move on from back-to-back ACL tears and the back-to-back rehabs that accompanied them. Excitement? Relief? Worry? Cautious optimism?

"It's nothing but excitement for me," Bradford said yesterday. "I've been excited this whole preseason. Excited just to get back on the field. I was excited for Baltimore and I was even more excited to be out there for Green Bay for three series. I'm just looking forward to it, to be honest."

There's a lot for Bradford to be excited about, and not just the fact that he's healthy again.

He has the keys to one of the league's most explosive offenses. An offense that reminds him an awful lot of the talent-rich one he quarterbacked at Oklahoma in 2008, when he threw 50 touchdown passes, won the Heisman Trophy and led the Sooners to the BCS title game.

"It's a similar mindset [to that team] in that we have playmakers all over the field, and my job as quarterback is simply to distribute and get them the ball and let them make plays in space," he said.

"It's really comforting as a quarterback when you look out there and all five of your receiving options are really good players and have the ability to turn a 5- or 6-yard completion into a 60-yard touchdown."

Bradford gave Eagles fans a glimpse of just what is possible Saturday night against the Packers. He played only three series and engineered three touchdown drives that consumed only 18 plays and ate up less than 7 minutes off the clock.

He attempted 10 passes, completing all 10 to six different receivers, three for touchdowns.

Coach Chip Kelly traded for Bradford because he fits his spread-tempo offense like a Roberto Cavalli dress fits Jennifer Lopez. He ran tempo at Oklahoma. He thrived in tempo because he can process information faster than a MacBook Air and is an exceptional decision-maker.

"The concepts aren't quite the same as what we were doing in Oklahoma," Bradford said. "We were spread [like the Eagles]. We were no-huddle [like the Eagles]. But we played a lot in '21' personnel [two running backs, one tight end), '12' personnel [one back, two tight ends), '13' personnel [one back, three tight ends]. Whereas here it's primarily '11' [one back, one tight end, three wide receivers), with some '20' (two backs, no tight ends, three wide receivers) and '12' sprinkled in.

"But the tempo is very similar. When we were out there against Green Bay and we were rolling and got things moving, it felt very similar to being back in college and just going.

"I think the greatest thing about tempo too, when you're playing fast, is you don't have time to think. You're just out there and you're just reacting and you're just having fun. You're just playing."

After spending the first five seasons of his career with a speed-challenged offense in St. Louis, after battling back from those back-to-back ACL tears, Bradford is overdue for some fun.

A year ago, after tearing it for the second time in 10 months in the Rams' third preseason game, a devastated Bradford wasn't sure he had the willpower to endure another long rehab, to stage yet another comeback.

"It was hard," he said. "I think the most frustrating thing was that I really felt that the last couple of games before I got hurt [the first time] and then [again] last preseason, I felt I was playing as well as I had ever played.

"I felt I was seeing things really well and the ball was coming out quick and was coming out clean. I mean, I just felt really good. To get back and feel you're in a good place, to feel healthy, feel normal again, and then to have to start over again, it was tough.

"Was I ever serious about retiring or quitting? Probably not. I think the thought initially enters your mind that I can't do this again. But I don't think it took but two days for me to realize I was coming back and I was going to give it another go."

If he needed a push, he got it less than a week after last summer's injury when Josh Heupel, who was Bradford's quarterbacks coach at Oklahoma and now is the assistant head coach and offensive coordinator at Utah State, called him.

Bradford has called it a phone call he'll never forget. "Josh probably had been as influential or as important to me as anybody other than my dad in my football career," he said. "Just talking to him and just hearing someone else who has belief in you and who still believes the best is still ahead of you, it just meant a lot to me to hear that from someone other than my mom and my dad and my girlfriend.

"I was sitting on the steps in front of my place and talking to him. It was kind of just one of those moments where after I got off the phone with him, it was like, 'OK, I'm back.' "

The only question after that was where "back" was going to be. Rams coach Jeff Fisher didn't want to trade Bradford. Hell, he was the reason Fisher took the Rams' head-coaching job in 2012 in the first place.

But after three straight losing seasons, Fisher's job security is a bit tenuous. He couldn't afford to take a chance that Bradford's knee would fail him a third time.

Enter Kelly, who does have job security and was willing to roll the dice for the opportunity to get a guy he believes is a franchise quarterback.

"The hardest part about it was I had developed some relationships there [in St. Louis] with some people that meant, and still mean, a lot to me, and who I'm still in contact with," Bradford said. "It was really hard, especially those first couple of days [after the trade] to realize I wasn't going to go to work and see those people every day again.

"But at the same time, from a football perspective, I was nothing but excited. When you have the opportunity to come to an organization that has had the success that this organization has had and that values winning the way they do, I mean, I don't know how you can ask for much more."

How about 16 injury-free starts?

On Twitter: @Pdomo