The questions keep coming. How does Stewart Bradley feel just days away from his first regular season football game since the 2008 season? Are there any lingering effects from the knee injury that sidelined him for all of last year? What kind of special feeling will it be to open 2010 against the Packers on Sunday?
Questions, questions. Bradley is a smart guy. He understands the questions. He understands the angle. It's the standout-returns-from-injury story, and it's a good one. But for Bradley, the truth is that, well, he is excited, honored, to have the opportunity to play again and that's the story. The injury thing is something that he doesn't even think about.
Not at all, unless a reporter puts a microphone in his face and asks the question.
"I'm so far through the process now that I don't think about it. I was asked about it before the first mini-camp, and then at the start of training camp and then again when the preseason began, and each time my answer was really the same: I feel great and I'm looking ahead, not back," said Bradley after Wednesday's practice at the NovaCare Complex. "I guess I'll be glad when nobody is asking me that question anymore."
The real questions are about a defense with a lot of youth, a lot of new faces and oodles of ability and potential. Bradley admits that all of the energy in the locker room is contagious, and that the Eagles team that steps on the field on Sunday is one filled with fire and brimstone and a playful enjoyment of the game.
All of a sudden Bradley is one of the older players on the team in his fourth NFL season.
"You watch this defense fly around and it's pretty evident that there is a lot of talent here," he said. "We have a game plan to follow and we have to execute the plan. We have to convert all of that talent into production. That is the name of the game in this business. I'm excited about the group. We're younger than we've been, and we have a lot of energy. For a lot of these guys, this is their first experience as Eagles and so they're going out there with something to prove to everybody.
"I call it a helpful energy about this squad. It's exciting. Guys are pushing each other. Nobody is taking anything for granted. I know some people out there are writing us off as too young and too inexperienced, and I think that gives everyone here even more to shoot for."
Bradley, of course, was injured in August of 2009 during the team's Flight Night! practice at Lincoln Financial Field. He missed the entire season and the Eagles dearly missed his presence. You think back to a year ago and try to understand everything that went down: Long-time defensive coordinator Jim Johnson passed away and was replaced by Sean McDermott, who had never been a defensive coordinator. Bradley was injured and lost for the year. A host of other Eagles went down with injuries.
And yet the Eagles won 11 games, and still ranked high in the league in quarterback sacks and in takeaways. Then the off-season came and, with it, all of the changes. Nine of 13 draft picks were defensive players. Veteran Ernie Sims was acquired to play WILL linebacker and defensive end Darryl Tapp was acquired to help up front.
Ellis Hobbs was promoted to a starter's position at right cornerback, Akeem Jordan was moved from the WILL spot to the SAM linebacker position and Bradley returned to the middle.
And as the Eagles line up for Green Bay and that powerful offense, rookies Brandon Graham and Nate Allen will start.
The Eagles stuffed two years worth of moves into a single off-season.
"I think it is coming along great. We're communicating and helping each other out and we are very aware of what kind of team the Packers are and the kind of offense they have," said Bradley. "They have it all. We know their coordinator has been there for a couple of years, along with their quarterback and a lot of their personnel, but you really don't know what to expect entirely until the game begins. The league changes and evolves and so we'll see.
"The Packers have great receivers, a tight end who makes plays all over the field and a quarterback who moves and who can throw from any spot. You see what they did in the preseason. It was impressive. They like to be aggressive and they can pound it, too. We have to be on top of our game to compete with that offense.
"This is what it is all about for me. I love the competition. Playing in the NFL is a privilege for me. I'm honored to be here. I'm going to go out there and enjoy playing the game on Sunday, being with my teammates and hopefully winning a football game."
Maybe if that happens, just maybe, the questions will stop. Bradley thinks he is all the way back. That is a positive thought for a revamped defense preparing for a mega-battle to open the 2010 campaign.
NEWS, NOTES AND A LITTLE BIT OF THIS AND THAT
The Eagles had full participation in practice on Wednesday and literally have no player on the injury list to this point. Enjoy it. It will be the last time all year to have a clean slate on the injury front.
- One of the more interesting chess matches will be the defense against tight end Jermichael Finley. He is the new breed of tight end, and the first of many great pass-catching tight ends the Eagles will face. Jordan is likely to see a lot of Finley. "He's fast and runs great routes, catches the ball. He does it all," said Jordan.
- So what will the Packers do against DeSean Jackson? Will they double team him? Will they put Charles Woodson on Jackson and have Woodson follow Jackson all over the field? It is a key matchup as Green Bay looks to take away one of the most dangerous downfield threats in the league.
- As much as Finley is a beast at tight end, the Packers also boast some excellent receivers in Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, James Jones and Jordy Nelson. Huge matchup challenge for the Eagles secondary.
- Packers first-round draft pick Bryan Bulaga has not pushed his way into the starting lineup quite yet after Green Bay made him the 23rd overall selection in April. That means veteran Chad Clifton works against Trent Cole on Sunday. Cole needs to win that battle for the Eagles.