As the season quickly approaches, all eyes are on quarterback Sam Bradford ... and his knees. Has Bradford fully recovered from his second ACL tear in as many years? Does he feel comfortable being back on the field? Will he play in Sunday's preseason opener against the Colts?
While the latter of these questions remains Chip Kelly's decision, Bradford felt comfortable answering the first two. With eight days of practice under his belt, the status of his knee is no longer a thought. Bradford feels normal, like his usual self, and is ready to get back to doing what he does best – playing football.
At this point, the first obstacle of practicing on the repaired knee is behind him, allowing Bradford to focus on his next challenge. He wants to test himself in a game setting, where the speed is faster and the red jersey all quarterbacks wear during Training Camp is gone.
"The game speed is the biggest thing, getting back out there, playing in a game where the bullets are real and obviously the speed picks up a little bit," Bradford said. "I think for all quarterbacks, whether you're coming off an injury or not, you go through Training Camp, you go through OTAs and never get hit. I think getting back out there, taking a hit, going to the ground, getting back up and playing the next play, that's a hurdle every year that everyone has to overcome."
Bradford, however, does understand that starting the season is vastly different for him than other quarterbacks. Coming back after missing the better part of two seasons is no easy task, which is why taking as many snaps as possible will help him shake the rust from his cleats.
After a day off, the #Eagles were back on the practice field to prepare for Sunday's preseason game. View the full gallery here...
"Obviously for me, I think that I need to get back on the field and get those reps," said Bradford. "It's been a long time since I've taken live-team reps. Now, whether that happens in the first game, the second game, the third game, the fourth game, that's completely up to coach, but I think it's definitely beneficial for me to get out there."
Going through a similar process last season with the Rams, Bradford understands playing this Sunday may not be in the cards. St. Louis chose not to utilize him in the first game of the 2014 preseason.
Instead of dwelling on what may or may not happen this weekend, the quarterback is focusing on the now. Throughout the entirety of Training Camp, the 27-year-old has seen the most reps with the first team of the four quarterbacks currently on the roster.
As the Eagles' probable starter and a newcomer to the team's offense, the more experience he gets, the better. Building team chemistry and understanding the schemes are both major factors in having the successful season the team wants.
"I think we've progressed quite nicely over the first week," said Bradford. "Obviously it's something that we'll continue to build. I said last week it was nice to get in the red zone. I think it'll be nice to spend some more time down in there hopefully these next couple weeks, develop the timing down there, which just happens a little quicker. As far as general chemistry, I feel like we're in a good place right now."
Not knowing when he will play for the first time as an Eagle has only made Bradford hungrier for his first appearance. He wants to show the city, its fans and finally his teammates what he can do with the ball.
Bradford wants nothing more than to leave a stellar first impression.
"I think you always want to make a good impression, not only on our fans but obviously my teammates," Bradford said. "They haven't seen me in a live game. I played with Donnie (Jones). I think he's about the only guy I've played with in the pros. None of these guys have seen me in a real game. I just think making a good first impression with those guys is the most important."
Even with the spotlight on his knees, Bradford's head is in the game. He is ready to prove himself, contribute to the team's offense and make his injuries a story of the past.
Nevertheless, the quarterback’s amusement over a circulating petition calling for Pope Francis to address him during the scheduled visit to Philadelphia could not be ignored.
"I haven't seen that, but I was told about it," laughed Bradford. "If I got to meet the Pope, I think that'd be pretty cool. If he wanted to bless my knees, I'm all for it."