Sam Bradford has five games remaining to salvage the Eagles season - and maybe even his time in Philadelphia - and it's likely to begin on Sunday against the New England Patriots.
After missing the last two games because of a concussion and a separated shoulder in his nonthrowing arm, Bradford sounded optimistic Wednesday that he will return to the starting lineup this weekend.
"I hope so," Bradford said. "I think, barring any setbacks, I expect to. But at the end of the day, that's going to be up to the coaching and training staff, if they feel that I'm ready to go out there and play at a high level."
The only remaining question is how the separated shoulder affects his performance. The risk of reinjury is not the problem, according to Bradford.
Coach Chip Kelly said the coaches must see the effects of Bradford's throwing and his soreness level after each practice. Bradford admitted he must tolerate some pain if he's going to play.
Bradford was a full participant in practice Wednesday. He's taking the first-team snaps. The team was concerned about his readiness at this time last week, but there's a noticeable difference with his health this time.
"I feel much better than I did at this point last week," Bradford said. "I think it's made a lot of progress. I'm much more comfortable with what I've been able to do on the field. It's starting to feel good."
Bradford pushed to play on Thanksgiving, but Kelly and the training staff didn't believe he was ready. So he was forced to watch from the sideline, where he saw the offense sputter in a 45-14 loss. The Eagles scored only 34 points in nine quarters without Bradford.
"Anytime you lose, it's tough, but when you're hurt and you're not able to be out there fighting with your guys, helping the team, doing what you can do, it makes it even worse," Bradford said. "I think having to sit there for the past couple of weeks and just watching us struggle, it's been tough."
Even more vexing to Bradford was that he and the team were excited about the way Bradford played before the injury. He was 44 of 61 for 531 yards and two touchdowns in the seven quarters he played after the bye week.
When Bradford exited against the Miami Dolphins on Nov. 15, the Eagles appeared on their way to their second consecutive victory and a winning record. The coaching staff saw Bradford's understanding of the offense improve, and he was better able to go through his progressions and know where to deliver the pass.
"In the past couple of games before I got hurt, I thought I was playing really well," Bradford said. "As far as the progressions, I thought we were better finding concepts I was comfortable with, things I had done in the past."
The Eagles ended up losing to the Dolphins, 20-19. The Eagles need Bradford to pick up where they think he left off before the injury, because the team has not allowed itself any margin for error at 4-7.
Bradford pointed out that the postseason remains within reach.
"We're going into Week 13, and we still have an opportunity to do that," Bradford said. "And I don't think we can lose sight of that. You have to hang onto the positives and know we can still get this thing turned around, and I think everyone in this locker room believes that."
Bradford can remember his rookie year as an example. Similar to the NFC East this year, the NFC West in 2010 was the worst division in the NFL. The 7-8 Rams played the 6-9 Seahawks in Week 17 for a chance to win the division. The Rams lost, costing Bradford a chance at the postseason.
At that point, Bradford's future appeared filled with promise. Now it's filled with uncertainty. His contract expires at the end of the season.
"It's a one-week season for me, and if you start looking ahead, looking at the future, there's obviously other things on mind than the task at hand," Bradford said.
Kelly said he's also not thinking big picture, but he knows Bradford is "a really good quarterback, and he was playing really well for us before he got injured against Miami."
But there is still not a commitment from either side after this season, and the next five games must answer what the first three months did not about Bradford's future.
"That's not up for me to decide," Bradford said.