When we last saw and heard from Sam Bradford, way back on June 17 as the Eagles wrapped up the spring mini-camp, he expressed confidence in his health and outlook for the immediate future.
"I feel like I've made a lot of progress. It feels more normal," Bradford said of his left knee, the one, of course, that has twice undergone surgery to repair a torn ACL. "You're able to come out here and not think about it, and I really feel like that's the stage I'm getting to where I don't really think about it anymore … The more I'm out there, the more comfortable I get."
Bradford's participation in those spring training sessions was limited as his on-field play was monitored and evaluated. He continued his physical rehabilitation throughout the spring. He made significant progress. The Eagles, to a man, expressed nothing but confidence that Bradford was taking the right steps and was coming along the way he needed.
With Training Camp on the horizon -- on-field work begins on August 2 at the NovaCare Complex -- the Bradford chatter percolates again. Boils, actually. Is he healthy? Will he be able to work without restrictions in camp? How much will he play in the preseason games? How much does he have to play in the preseason to shake off the rust from two seasons during which he only played seven games? And so on and so on.
With camp nearly here, the talking heads are offering their evaluations of Bradford and how he fits into the plans with the Eagles. ESPN's Ron Jaworski, the former Eagles great quarterback, ranks Bradford 20th among the projected 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL, ahead of Chicago's Jay Cutler (and Nick Foles, who is 22nd) and below Arizona's Carson Palmer. A writer for NJ.com quoted an anonymous NFL executive on Bradford, saying "If Bradford had gone anywhere else you wouldn't even be talking about him. He's been hurt the past two years and even when he was healthy, he was just average. But he's with Chip Kelly, so there's hope I guess. Chip Kelly is the one guy who can make Bradford a success."
Not that any of this matters. It's just fodder until we can see how Bradford performs on the field in the training sessions and then in the preseason games and, when it really matters, starting September 14 in Atlanta on ESPN. The whole world can watch Bradford and evaluate. The bullets against the Falcons mean something. The game counts. The 16-game regular season begins.
So what is the story with Bradford as we narrow down on the opening of Training Camp? It's a good question, with an answer that only Bradford and the Eagles' athletic training staff likely has an inside knowledge of right now. Bradford has continued his rehab during the off time since June 17. There has been nothing but optimism regarding his work and his recovery and the outlook.
But the truth is that it's very much going to be a day-by-day evaluation. As Bradford ramps up his participation, how will his knee react the next day? Is swelling a concern? How many reps in the training sessions work for Bradford? How much work does he need in the training sessions to get ready for preseason action and then, in turn, how much work does he need in the preseason games -- not wearing a red jersey -- to be ready for the regular season?
These are legitimate questions. There are no answers at this point. Bradford is like every other player, and his injury recovery is to be handled in a player-specific manner. That's why head coach Chip Kelly said in the spring that there is no "schedule" for Bradford because, well, nobody knows how he will respond to the increases in workload or any rehabilitation challenges he may encounter.
Making predictions on "what do you think Bradford will do?" questions are really pointless. Fun, maybe, for the fans and media, but pointless. Nobody truly knows. There is optimism that Bradford is on the right track and that his diligence will be rewarded -- boy, is there any player in the league who deserves a break and some good luck and success? -- but there isn't a person out there who knows what the future holds for Bradford or, truly, for any player in the NFL.
It's a day-by-day deal, folks, and if that sounds like a bailout or a hedge from this perspective, it is. It's also the truth. The Eagles are optimistic with Bradford's situation. He's worked really hard to get healthy. He's devoted himself to the offense and understanding the nuances of what Kelly and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur have put together. Bradford has equally integrated himself into the locker room and developed good chemistry with his teammates. Everyone is hopeful of good times ahead.
But there are no guarantees and there will be no predictions when Kelly is asked on August 2 about Bradford. It's going to be a day-by-day, snap-by-snap, throw-by-throw proposition. The rest of the world can weigh in on Bradford and the year ahead. The Eagles are going to stay the course, build momentum on a daily basis, and grade every step of every training session. It sounds boring, yes, in this I-need-to-know-now world, but that's just the way it is and the way it's going to be as we excitedly wait for Training Camp to begin and for the Sam Bradford Watch to kick into its highest gear.