THE BACKPACK is on the small side, with a discreet, black-and-gray checked pattern that would seem to identify it as a $1,700 Louis Vuitton. It sat in Nigel Bradham's NovaCare locker stall Wednesday, minus the gun that authorities removed from it Sunday afternoon at Miami International Airport.
Bradham picked it up and unzipped the small compartment in the very front - "the smallest zipper on the bag" - where he said he'd forgotten Sunday that he'd stashed his loaded gun, for which he had a concealed carry permit.
"I never open this," he said, showing the empty compartment.
"So you must not have used the backpack in a while," a reporter said, a statement that was also a question.
And yet, around a top strap of the backpack was fastened a shiny purple plastic band, which sure seemed to be the color-coded security tag for the bag check at the Eagles' Sept. 25 home game against the Steelers. The bag-check personnel at Lincoln Financial Field probably didn't overlook a gun. And the backpack got to Miami during the bye week, presumably on a plane, since that was how it left. The time frame for unzipping the front compartment would seem considerably narrower than "never."
"How does it happen? Just forgot," Bradham said. "It's as simple as that."
Asked whether he routinely carries a loaded gun, Bradham indicated this was common in Florida, and said: "It wasn't cocked and loaded. It was loaded, as far as bulletswise."
Bradham was aware that his arrest record wasn't what the team hoped would be the focus of its first full day of preparation for this week's trip to Detroit.
"You never want to be a distraction," Bradham said. "Obviously, that's what happened . . . Right now, we've got a lot of positive things to talk about. We're 3-0, coming off the bye week . . . We got the Lions, (need to) stay focused on the Lions."
There were a lot more questions than there were satisfying answers around Bradham's locker stall Wednesday, after Eagles coach Doug Pederson told reporters: "I don't know why anybody would do that. I don't know all the circumstances around it . . . It's a big deal, to do that. Obviously, he has it registered, and, from that standpoint - listen, I have rifles, and I like to hunt, but we just have to be smart."
"Smart" seems to be the big issue with the Eagles' starting strongside linebacker right now. He expresses himself as a thoughtful, obliging, intelligent person. Yet he was arrested Sunday for something that seems incomprehensible to many of us. Even so, the offense normally would have merited only a citation, instead of a booking - forgetting about a gun in your luggage in Miami apparently is on the same level as accidentally packing the extra-large tube of toothpaste - but Bradham was arrested because he was already out on $7,500 bond for aggravated felony battery.
The earlier charge was from the Miami incident just before training camp opened in July, in which Bradham is accused of punching a 50-year-old South Beach hotel worker, Jean Courtois, who was renting beach chairs and umbrellas to Bradham's party. A court proceeding Wednesday, which Bradham was not required to attend, formalized the charge and set a Jan. 17 trial date.
Bradham, 27, signed as a free agent from Buffalo last March, has been one of the team's best players through three games. Yet he has been arrested twice in three months. Pederson seemed reluctant to impose any sort of team suspension Wednesday, but it could just be that he expects the NFL to do something. Bradham seems to think that is now more likely.
"Not yet," he said, when asked whether he has heard from the league. "I don't know (whether the second incident will trigger league action), but it's definitely a possibility. I'm sure they're going to take that into account."
"Fortunately, I'm here now, and that's a blessing," Bradham said. "I can't take that for granted. I know a lot of guys in the league who made mistakes and - you really and truly only get one chance at this. It's an honest mistake, and I've just go to make sure it doesn't happen again."
Cornerback Ron Brooks played with Bradham in Buffalo.
"I don't like speaking on other people's situations, but I know Nigel, I know what kind of person he is. I know he didn't do anything with any malicious or hurtful intent," Brooks said.
When he arrived for training camp after the hotel incident, Bradham said he was worried about first impressions; he was concerned that fans would get a negative view of him before he had a chance to show them who he was, on and off the field. On Monday, when the team returned from the bye with a light workout, Bradham talked to reporters about wanting to be a role model. He knew then about the airport arrest; they didn't.
Asked about those aspirations Wednesday, Bradham said: "I also have a 2-year-old son. I have to be a role model for him, my family, this organization, kids in Philadelphia, obviously. I just have to take a lot more responsibility."
Fans here still don't really know him, but they know about the arrests. How can Bradham fix that?
"Just keep fightin' man, and try to make everything right. Come in every day to work, continue to do the things I've been doing, and do it better. Be more responsible."
Pederson said he sent the team off into the bye with the message, "be smart, be careful, protect each other away from the building." He added that "Guys have got to make better decisions when they're away from the building . . . It's their livelihood. It's their families."
Asked about his meeting with Pederson after the bye, Bradham said: "Obviously, it's a disappointment. I have to stand to my responsibilities, and honestly, be way more responsible. Two incidents where I was irresponsible, that's why I'm in the situation I'm in now."
Bradham said he also has discussed the situation with defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.
Pederson said he would "wait and see what happens" before imposing any team discipline.
"I can talk to him until I'm blue in the face," Pederson said, but, given that it's a legal matter and that the league might weigh in, "until I get all the information, we go as business as usual."