First, some perspective: On first the day that the Eagles opened their Organized Team Activities to the media, an unofficial 105 reporters, cameras and erstwhile information gatherers watched from the sidelines, a number nearly three times high than a normal busy, crazy, fun afternoon.
Keep in mind, please, that the players are wearing helmets, shells and shorts during these OTAs, that there is no tackling and that, well, it's just so darn early to make too much out of this work.
But the curiosity factor is through the roof, don't ya know, and when Sam Bradford, jersey No. 7, trotted out onto the field wearing a brace on his left knee, all eyes found him and the scrutiny began. Welcome to Philadelphia, Sam. Now do everything all at once.
That's kind of how the thinking goes for some, but inside the Eagles organization the progress is steady and sure for Bradford, coming off two torn ACLs and subsequent surgeries that robbed him of all but seven games in his final two seasons with the St. Louis Rams. Bradford is taking part on a limited basis in the first week of these OTAs, with the hope that he can take some reps in seven-on-seven work next week.
As much as we want to rush to the end of the book on Bradford, the fact is that he's a page-by-page read. The idea is to have him ready for September 14 and the game in Atlanta, not to push him too much for a training session in May or June.
"I think I get more comfortable out here every day. I get more comfortable with my knee and where it's at every day the more I'm out here," Bradford said. "Obviously it would be nice to get out there and take some live reps and I think that we're progressing towards that and I'm sure that once I get out there and take some reps in seven-on-seven and 'team' things will really start to come together."
Bradford said that he has no doubt that he'll be back, and better than ever. He praised the team's training and recovery programs and the dedication the Eagles make to maximize the welfare of the players. The X's and O's are coming together, and Bradford is digging the way head coach Chip Kelly has his program structured. The tempo and spread formations, which Bradford sampled at Oklahoma, are right in the quarterback's sweet spot.
"It's a lot of fun. I haven't gotten a chance to get out there and actually run it, but just watching it on tape and talking about it, I love the tempo, I love how fast we play," he said. "It fits my style of game, making quick decisions. The run game is a little different -- we've been running two-back'power' (in St. Louis), it's a lot of the zone-read stuff (here) which is new to me, but I see the advantages of it."
The rest of it? Bradford isn't focused on the prospects of a long-term contract. He didn't obsess about the Marcus Mariota rumors which dominated the pre-draft rhetoric. The questions about his long-range health prospects are legitimate, given his injury-riddled past. But why waste time and breath on those kinds of things? Bradford channeled his energy into rehabbing his knee, which he says has made great strides in the last six to eight weeks.
He also integrated himself into the locker room with a lot of new faces who are just as curious about Bradford as he is about them.
"I think he's been great, very positive, very cerebral and he's fit right in," center Jason Kelce said. "We all respect what he's been through. It's tough. Injuries are part of the game. We all know that. He's worked hard to get back to this point and he knows he has more work to do. I think he's going to be fine. He's going to be a big part of what we do."
Thursday was a really terrific day at the NovaCare Complex. Just to see the Eagles on the field for the first time since the win over the New York Giants in late December, to associate all of the new names and numbers and to let it sink in how much change there has been, it was invigorating. The session was fast and it was fun and the energy from the training session spilled over to those watching. It was, really, an event.
Bradford was a main attraction, as were so many of the newest Eagles. It really wasn't a day to look ahead and to make predictions or proclamations, as some wanted. It was a day to watch, absorb and gain some insight on this new roster. This team is a work in progress and when you hear Chip Kelly speak with so much enthusiasm and confidence and you perk up when Bradford says he has "no doubt" that he'll be ready for Atlanta on September 14 (obviously he will on the field long before that), it sends some chills. The season, after all of these twists and turns in the crazy/busy offseason, is here. That is enough to get the heartbeat pounding.