New Arizona coach Steve Wilks said early on that veteran Sam Bradford is his starting quarterback. Yes, that Sam Bradford, the oft-injured former Heisman Trophy winner who is on his fourth team since entering the league in 2010. However, this week Wilks left the door open that Bradford might not remain in that spot, maybe not even for the opener.
It’s understandable, given Bradford only earned a one-year deal from Arizona after knee issues limited him to two games with the Minnesota Vikings last season. There’s also Josh Rosen lurking behind Bradford, eager to prove he should have been taken higher than 10th overall in this year’s draft and already turning heads among Cardinals’ coaches.
That means Bradford has a lot to prove – mainly if he can stay healthy and play at a high level – and not much time to do it. Because if he struggles even the slightest, and Rosen is ready, Wilks probably won’t hesitate to make a switch.
Call it a comeback
The fact Bradford, who will turn 31 in November, only received a one-year deal says it all. He’s no longer thought of as a franchise quarterback, but one that if can remain on the field, should be serviceable as a stop-gap, like in Arizona. Remember, in 2016 for Minnesota, Bradford threw for a career-high 3,877 yards while completing 71.6 percent of his passes, throwing 20 touchdowns and only five interceptions.
The key for Bradford, of course, is staying on the field. But Bradford will get the chance to prove his doubters wrong. If he plays well enough for the Cardinals to be competitive, then Rosen might have to wait. And though Rosen has a high opinion of himself that kind of ego might be a detriment early on.
Bradford’s window to prove himself might not be open all that much, but it’s open enough for him to feel confident he can make a comeback. At this point in his career, that’s about all he can ask for.
Playing for his future?
Because injuries have led to a perception that Bradford is someone who can no longer be counted on, he may not only be playing to keep a starting job but perhaps prolong his career. Another serious injury could hinder Bradford’s future further. At the least relegate him to a backup and at worst make him unhirable.
That’s why this might be the most important season of his career, because even if he stays healthy it’s uncertain he will remain Arizona’s starter. If that’s the case, then who knows what Bradford’s future will hold. Then again, if he’s able to bounce back and the Cardinals thrive under him, he may be back in the good graces of the league and could find a starting job elsewhere because Arizona, regardless of how much success it has this season, probably wants to see what Rosen’s capable of sooner than later.
For the moment, it’s Bradford time and he must take advantage.
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