A Different View From the Inside On Bradford

Jordan Matthews, Sam Bradford

Malcolm Jenkins and Jordan Matthews reminded those gathered around them Tuesday of a fundamental truth about the NFL: it’s a business.

“There’s 52 guys in here that feel like they’re overworked and underpaid. That’s just the reality of it,” said Matthews. “Everybody wants more money. Everybody wants this and that.”

For proof, reporters simply had to shift their eyes down the locker room some to the vacant stall typically occupied by Fletcher Cox. The standout defensive tackle has been missing all offseason as efforts to re-up his contract continue. Darren Sproles, too, has been a no-show, which reportedly has something to do with trade discussions that were held over draft weekend. Yet there has been very little external blowback, particularly compared to the storm that Sam Bradford‘s recent actions created.

A member of the player fraternity even got in the mix, as our good friend Sheil relayed recently (via 710 ESPN Seattle).

[Michael] Bennett, who is never short on opinions, also shared his thoughts on what’s happening on the other side of the country with quarterback Sam Bradford and the Philadelphia Eagles.

“I listened to Sam Bradford again. I just almost threw up,” Bennett said. “I can’t believe Sam Bradford is complaining about making $40 million in the next two years, and because he actually has to compete for a position. This guy, this guy right here definitely sets a bad tone of what a player should be.

“If I was his teammate … how can you play with a guy that doesn’t want to compete at a high level and feels like his position should be solidified without even putting up the stats or the wins to back that up?”

Jenkins was made aware of those comments and offered this response: “I think anybody’s read on the situation from afar, the only thing you can read is headlines. I don’t think anybody in this locker room has come out and said that Sam is afraid to compete, so that whole headline in itself is something that’s not internal. Nobody in here feels that way,” he said.

The strong outside reaction was brought on in part by the specifics of the situation: that Bradford, having just signed a deal worth at least $22 million, responded to the Eagles’ decision to move up by going home and demanding a trade. Those actions run counter to the identity of this town, and were generally viewed as out of whack coming from a player that hasn’t exactly distinguished himself over his six- year career.

The other driving force is tied to the position that he plays. Quarterbacks are held to a higher standard. A team can withstand turbulence brought on by a restless defensive lineman or running back, say, but can it really function properly if the QB is the one that’s making waves?

“It helps  that Sam is the way he is because if some guys are ‘unhappy’ or they want a different situation and they have a totally different personality, it can be like a cancer in a locker room,” said Matthews, “like guys feel that negative energy. But Sam is the same way twenty-four seven. You really can’t tell what’s going on with Sam: he’s calm, he’s the same every single day. He just wants to come in, try to make his throws, work hard and then get out the building. My thing is, yeah all that stuff was happening, but when he came back he got right back to work. That’s what we need him to do and that’s what he needs to go focus on.”

But isn’t it a bit of a different situation in terms of what you need out of a quarterback?

“Not necessarily,” said Jenkins. “It goes team by team. The norm is to have a quarterback who is the face of your franchise, the number one player, the leader, but there are some franchises that don’t have that. That’s fine. It will shake itself out. Right now I think everybody is trying to figure out what their role is on the team. And this is the offseason so nobody is in a rush to say that anybody has got to lead. We’re just trying to get better every day and having him back obviously makes us better.

“The thing we need out of him is the thing we need out of every other player: do your job. Make plays, run the offense, whatever your job description is as a quarterback, do it, just like anybody else. I’m going to do my best job as a safety. I don’t expect him to do anything more than play quarterback.”

And, Doug Pederson might add, block out distractions. The head coach mentioned multiple times on Tuesday how important it is that Bradford not look over his shoulder from here on out.

“You’re the guy,” was Pederson’s message to the QB when he returned to the fold. “Let’s embrace it and let’s go.”

Questions remain about whether a locker room can develop the necessary strength to sustain the rigors of an NFL season led by what everybody recognizes at this point to be a QB rental. Matthews has long talked about the importance of consistency at the position, and has made all kinds of efforts (including a trip to Oklahoma this offseason) to tighten the bond with Bradford, who has since asked for a ticket out of town — a request that will more than likely be granted at season’s end. Can proper chemistry really get formed that way?

“If anybody should be upset then [it’s me]. If I’m cool with it, then everybody should be cool,” said Matthews. “Because he’s got, what, over a couple contracts a hundred mil maybe? I got one but I’m still running for his butt, you know what I’m saying? Look, if I want to be here and I’m happy with it and we can go out there and just compete, that’s all I want to focus on, that’s all that matters. We can’t worry about next season. I don’t know why we even talk about that. We gotta worry about right now.

“Once the pads go on, Sam is not going to be sitting back thinking, ‘Aw man, what if?’ No, he’s going to be ready to go win a freaking football game. Let’s be completely honest. He’s not the only person in the NFL that’s looked for situations where they can probably make more money or better their situation. Everybody pretty much does it; he’s just a quarterback so I know it’s looked at a little bit differently. But if he’s in here, I know Sam, Sam’s going to want to go out there and win. He doesn’t have social media but he knows what people say. He wants to prove people wrong. He wants to go compete.”