SAM BRADFORD'S two weeks of temporary insanity ended Monday. He returned to the team and retracted his demand to be traded after signing, just weeks before, a two-year, $35 million contract. When he resumed voluntary workouts, he was by all accounts welcomed back by teammates without animosity.
His quiet return in advance of this weekend's rookie minicamp nonetheless prompted a storm of speculation and recrimination:
Sam's teammates resent his absence.
Sam needs to apologize to his teammates.
Sam will ignore Carson Wentz and impede his development.
Sam insulted the fan base.
Bradford will have to face these assertions for the first time within the next week. He will be asked questions about all of those contrived issues.
Contrived? Absolutely. None of this is merited. All of it is foolish.
No player will resent Bradford's absence because no harm was done to the team. He missed a few days of catch.
The NFL is a business. The players are professionals. They play football for money. In general, players who play on the teams that win the most make the most money in the long term. Virtually every player is on a one-year contract. Most are disposable. Being associated with a winning team usually inflates a player's value.
This season, Sam Bradford is the most valuable Eagle, and his teammates know it. He is the only blue-chip player with experience in a version of the West Coast offense Doug Pederson has installed; an offense in which Bradford succeeded early in his career. The team's success hinges more on Bradford playing well than on any other player on the roster.
If Bradford missed more time, then his teammates might have begun to resent his absence. It might have gotten ugly if he missed some or all of the crucial 13 sessions of organized team activities and mandatory minicamp that begin Tuesday, May 17 and run through June 9. He, as the starting quarterback, would have missed the installation of the foundation of the team's offense. That would have been crippling to the team. That would have warranted some sort of blowback.
At worst, by leaving and demanding a trade, Bradford implied that he believed this version of the Eagles could not play well enough to showcase him sufficiently. He would neither be considered indispensible by the Eagles nor attractive enough to another team to warrant a trade that would lead to a lucrative, long-term deal.
Well, he's probably right about the team's prospects. His teammates know it.
He needn't apologize for an obvious and accurate assessment. Not to all of his teammates, anyway.
He should, however, apologize to Wentz. Bradford's antics dampened Wentz's arrival, put Wentz in a spot where, instead of celebrating his ascension from a second-tier division to the top of the draft, he had to deal with the uncertainty of the Bradford situation. It was a lousy thing to do to the kid.
Bradford also owes his bosses an apology. Jeffrey Lurie, Howie Roseman and Pederson gave Bradford $22 million in guaranteed money, an $11 million signing bonus and a starting job for at least one season. Bradford never would have gotten that deal on the open market. He knows it. His agent, Tom Condon, knows it. That's why they signed with the Eagles and forsook free agency.
Bradford and Condon also knew that, with him signing a deal for just two years, the Eagles planned to draft his replacement, most likely in the first round. They told him this before he signed. They told everyone this before he signed.
Yes, they traded up from 13th to eighth, then to second, to secure Wentz, but that is irrelevant. It is also irrelevant that they used draft-pick resources to trade up. Those picks were not likely to help the team this season, anyway.
Lurie and Roseman and Pederson deserve an apology because they were honest with him, and he reneged. They planned to have him run the team this season, told him at every juncture what their thinking was, and, still, he left.
As for the thought that Bradford will somehow sabotage the beginning of Wentz's career, well . . . anyone who has spent 20 minutes around Bradford knows that there is not a hint of malice in his past or his present. He has been professional all six NFL seasons, and each season tested his character, since he always has been a part of an inferior team. He has been an excellent teammate, a respected leader. If Bradford wants the team to win, then he will help Wentz and backup Chase Daniel. More than likely, they will have to relieve him at some point this season. If the Eagles win, Bradford wins. He will play nice. It is logical, and it is his nature.
Finally, since Bradford plays in Philadelphia, there exists a measure of outrage among fans that he somehow insulted the entitled fan base by leaving. It is a fan base with a perverse need for a source of outrage.
Lurie and Roseman, the usual targets of complaint and anger, are riding high these days, viewed as salvagers of the Chip Kelly disaster.
So, Sam will be the target. His mistakes on the field will be magnified. His remarks off the field will be parsed, and skewed. His carriage will be dissected.
This will be amusing to witness, since it will be wonderfully self-defeating. Eagles fans who are desperate to win, desperate for relevance, will assume the tack of deriding the most important man in their sports world.
It will be enough to drive a man insane.