If anyone was wondering when the NFL and the media who cover it would reach peak absurdity over Sam Bradford, wonder no more. The apex of ridiculousness in this entire affair was reached Tuesday - not at the NovaCare Complex, but 3,000 miles to the west. In Seattle.
There, Michael Bennett, a defensive end for the Seattle Seahawks, was a guest on the Brock and Salk show on ESPN 710 AM. During the interview, Bennett, who is unhappy with his own contract and considered holding out last season, was asked about the Eagles' decision to move up to draft Carson Wentz and Bradford's reactions to it: his request to be traded and his subsequent two-week absence from the Eagles' voluntary team activities. Bennett told the hosts, "I listened to Sam Bradford again. I just almost threw up."
It was a succulent quote, and it spread through social media and the blogosphere like a flu bug through a kindergarten class. There was just one problem with what Bennett said: Given that the show is on the air from 7 to 10 a.m. Seattle time, and that Bradford had made no public comment about the situation before approximately 2:20 p.m. Philadelphia time Tuesday, it was impossible for Bennett to have become nauseated over words that Bradford had not yet uttered. But hey, "narratives" are all the rage these days. And every good narrative needs a conflict. And every good conflict needs a villain. And Bradford - the brittle-as-blown glass quarterback who has been paid $89 million over his six-plus years in the league and hasn't even won a playoff game - makes for an awfully easy villain in an awfully easy narrative about selfishness and professionalism and competitiveness and how Bradford possesses those qualities in all the wrong proportions.
Bradford himself got closer to the truth of the whole thing in his remarks Tuesday. When he and the Eagles reached an agreement on a two-year contract, he said, they made him no promises, and he expected none. What he wanted was a genuine chance, if he played well over those two years, to "create that stability that I've talked about pretty much my whole career" and that, over five years and two knee surgeries with the St. Louis Rams, he never did create. Then Howie Roseman, the Eagles' vice president of football operations, pulled off those two mammoth trades to trampoline up to the No. 2 pick in the draft, and every indication was that Wentz was the Eagles' quarry, and Bradford recognized that his days here were numbered. Hence, the trade request.
"The competition is what it is," he said. "If I continue to play at a high level each week on the field, if we continue to win games, if we are winning games, I think I will be the starting quarterback and I will be out there. With that being said, I'm not completely naive. I think you realize if the organization made a move to get up to 2, at some point it's probably not going to be my team. . . .
"You have to realize what the situation is. And the aggressive move that was made to go out and try to get to No. 2, I think there's deeper meaning behind that."
Of course there is. You could hear it in coach Doug Pederson's voice, in his praise for the way Wentz was clapping and cheering and "rallying the guys" during Tuesday's practice. "That's the type of guy Carson is," Pederson said, elevating Wentz's banal encouragement of his new teammates into an indication that the kid would soon be capable of leading his dear friends unto the breach. In comparison, Pederson's repeated characterizations of Bradford as "my number-one guy" came off as hollow. Everyone here knows what the score is. You'd have to be blind and deaf not to.
Maybe that's why, for all the convenient outrage over Bradford, his teammates seemed less troubled by his actions than anyone. In a league in which no player contract is guaranteed, they understood the reality here. Bradford and his agent, Tom Condon, saw one team - the Denver Broncos - as a possible trade partner for the Eagles. They saw one shot for Bradford to obtain some leverage and improve his situation - a shot that Bradford's detractors have determined, by the holy and wholly arbitrary standard of What's Sam Bradford ever done?, he had no right to take. Bradford took it. It didn't work. But who in that locker room would blame him for trying?
"Players get cut; players get traded," Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "A player can get cut before his contract is up. Teams have no loyalty necessarily to their players. So when players make moves, it's all business. We don't go ask Howie why they cut somebody or traded somebody, so I wouldn't ask somebody why they held out. All I can do is express that we wanted him in the building, and he came back, so we're good to go."
Yes, he came back, and he'll do something millions of people do every day: He will work hard at his job, even though he'd rather have another one, until for whatever reason he doesn't have that job anymore. It's all he can do. It's all business, and it always has been, from the start of this mess. Perhaps more people would get that if they listened to Sam Bradford again, for the first time.