For the better part of the past two seasons, quarterback Sam Bradford watched games from the sideline. He didn't put on pads, didn't suit up in his jersey. A twice-torn ACL in his left knee sealed that fate, but now those days are a thing of the past. During the Eagles' Saturday night preseason win over the Baltimore Ravens, Bradford showed Philadelphia and the rest of the NFL that he is back and prepared to play.
Although he managed the offense for only one drive, consisting of 14 snaps, the quarterback was locked in and focused throughout the entirety of his time in the game. In less than four minutes, Bradford moved his team 84 yards down the field, allowing the Eagles to put seven points on the board. According to tackle Jason Peters, there was nothing more the team could have asked.
"It was nice, man," Peters said of seeing Bradford in command. "He felt good. He told me it felt so good for him to go out there and show everybody that he's back. It felt good to him, and it felt good to me too."
Even if the game was Bradford's first as an Eagle, his teammates already knew he was capable and extremely talented. After seeing Bradford in OTAs, mini-camp and the first few weeks of Training Camp, they weren't surprised by his successful debut. For them, the moment was more so about seeing their friend finally getting back into action.
"We've known that Sam can be effective, and he's a great quarterback in practice," center Jason Kelce said. "I was excited for him to be out there in his first game back since his ACL injury. He was able to get out there, move the ball and take some hits too. I've been injured before, and every time you take that first hit in a game situation, it's a little bit of a mental breakthrough. I'm sure he felt good being back out there. We were happy for him."
During the drive, Bradford took two big shots, including one from linebacker Terrell Suggs at the knees that drew a roughing the passer penalty. Instead of letting the contact frazzle him, the quarterback took both hits in stride. He got up, regrouped and continued on with the game.
For Bradford, taking hits was one of the final boxes left to be checked to complete his return. He showed the critics there is no reason to be concerned. He's not fragile by any stretch of the imagination. He connected with his teammates and proved he is healthy and ready to be the Eagles' quarterback.
"He was great back there in the pocket," said wide receiver Jordan Matthews, who caught a 15-yard pass from Bradford. "He was able to take his first drive and score a touchdown. I think this is the start of something that could be really good for our offense. Everybody knows his talent. He's a great leader and an extremely great passer. I can't wait to keep working with him. It's going to be awesome."
On Saturday, Bradford put the Eagles on the board and experienced live game-action with his teammates, but it was more than just a football game to the quarterback. It was an opportunity to once again do what he loves.
"I was excited. I was nervous. There were a lot of emotions," Bradford said. "I think most of all I was just excited. It was a great feeling – hearing the crowd, getting back out there, playing football again. It's been a long time and there has been a lot of work that has gone into it, and to get out there tonight and actually get to play again, it was just a lot of fun."