PHILADELPHIA - Practice has just ended, and Sam Bradford stands beneath a tent outside the Eagles’ training complex. He’s trying to explain his newfound sense of perspective and calm despite the swirl of controversy and expectation that comes with the arrival of a teammate who is bound to take away his job one day.
Bradford had thought his place on the Eagles’ roster was secure after signing a two-year, $36-million contract in March, but then saw his team maneuver its way up the draft board and select North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz with the No. 2 overall pick. Bradford’s agent, Tom Condon, pushed for a trade, ostensibly with Bradford’s blessing.
With the Eagles refusing to give up on Bradford despite Wentz’s presence, Bradford eventually accepted the situation, even if grudgingly at first. Yet here he stands, with a sense of quiet confidence and understanding that this is still the best place for him to be, despite the possibility that his place in the starting lineup is far from assured in the long term.
“Just control what you can control, because at the end of the day, that’s all you can do,” Bradford said. “That’s really kind of been a mantra of mine for a while. Each day, just go out here, try to help this football team and don’t worry about anything else.”
In other words, don’t look over your shoulder, see Wentz, and realize that at some point — even if no one knows when that point might be — he will be the Eagles’ quarterback. For now, Wentz is the future, and Bradford maintains possession of the present.
“There are a million other things going on outside this building and outside this team, and no one else in that locker room has control,” he said. “So just control what I have the power to control.”
Simple and straightforward, which is just how Bradford likes it. No sense in worrying about the what-ifs when he still has the power to control the narrative.
Bradford came to the Eagles last year in a bold trade that was executed by a coach who is no longer here, so the quarterback’s presence itself is somewhat of a surprise. But general manager Howie Roseman, who survived a power battle with Chip Kelly, decided Bradford was his guy for at least the short term. Roseman, however, made a series of trades to move up to the No. 2 spot to get Wentz, not long ago a somewhat obscure talent in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Bradford initially was stunned and angry, and Condon pushed for a trade. The Eagles preferred to keep Bradford, though, in part because they believed in his talent, but also because they felt Wentz would need time to develop.
Bradford eventually accepted his situation, backed off the trade demands and came to terms with what must be an uncomfortable arrangement. It already is to some degree. During Sunday’s practice at Lincoln Financial Field, where fans were able to attend, the bigger cheers were for Wentz, not Bradford.
“I knew there would be a lot of excitement to see him,” said Bradford, 28, the first overall pick of the Rams in 2010. “I thought it was great. Obviously, there’s going to be excitement. It’s good. It’s good for this team. It’s one of those things I just have to deal with. I don’t think it’s that big a deal, to be honest.”
Ah, but it’s only August, still weeks from the games and the Bradford-Wentz drama unfolding based on results. As long as Bradford wins, the job is his. If not . . . you know the drill, especially when it comes to the cauldron of emotions that defines the Philadelphia market.
Wentz, meanwhile, offers nothing but respect for his more experienced teammate as he begins the difficult initiation into the complicated NFL playbook.
“Sam has been great. He’s incredibly accurate, he’s got a real ly good command of what’s going on out there on and off the field,” Wentz said. “In the meeting room, he’s been very helpful, as well. I’ve been picking up a lot of things just watching him interact with guys.”
Wentz said he is “feeling confident and comfortable,” but understands it’s a long process. “You don’t get it all overnight,” he said. “Mistakes that are made today hopefully get cleaned up tomorrow. But I’m feeling pretty comfortable with where I’m at.”
The uneasy alliance seems fine for now. Check back halfway through the season, and we’ll see if the situation is different.
Chances are it will be.