Acquired in a trade from the Philadelphia Eagles eight day before the Vikings will open their regular season against the Tennessee Titans, the quarterback is working overtime, not only trying to learn a new offense but also study the game plan against a Tennessee Titans defense that was 27th in points allowed but 12th in yards allowed last year.
“I think that’s probably been one of the more challenging parts about this week is normally when you go into a game week you already have a pretty good grasp of what you’re doing offensively. You spend a lot of time studying the opponent and what they’re doing on defense,” Bradford said. “Trying to balance that this week, it’s been a little more difficult than it normally is just because as much as I’m trying to study Tennessee, I’m probably studying even more of our playbook making sure that I’m comfortable with what we’re doing offensively.”
If he is the starter on Sunday, the Vikings aren’t saying and don’t plan on making that announcement until Sunday. Eventually, that is expected to happen. As Titans head coach Mike Mularkey said, teams don’t give up first- and fourth-round draft picks to sit a quarterback.
After being the No. 1 overall pick of the 2010 NFL draft, Bradford was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year after completing 354 of 590 passes (both NFL rookie records) for 3,512 yards (second to Peyton Manning as a rookie) and 18 touchdowns (fifth among NFL rookies all-time).
However, after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee two times, the St. Louis Rams parted ways with him after he missed the 2014 season with injury.
Last year, Bradford started all 14 games he played with the Eagles and was expected to be their starter to begin this season. However, after Carson Wentz was the second overall pick in the draft, the Eagles decided to part ways with Bradford when the Vikings upped their trade offer to include a first-round pick.
This translates to Bradford’s third team in as many years.
“I think you look at some guys who have had a lot of success in this league and obviously they’re very comfortable in their systems because they’ve been doing it a long time,” he said. “I haven’t really had much stability in my career so I’m not sure what that’s like. I do know the couple years I was in the same system, my comfort level was exponentially higher than it was Year 1. I guess there is a part of it – at the end of the day it’s football – but I think obviously the more time, the more reps you have in the system, the better you feel.”
Bradford arrived in Minnesota Saturday afternoon and started the immediate immersion into the Vikings offense. Four days after his arrival, he said the comfort level in the offense is growing.
“Much more comfortable than Sunday, that’s for sure. Obviously just being around here a couple days it just helps seeing cutups, watching film, having meetings, talking to coach about the plays,” he said. “Just going through things, obviously getting some reps at practice, I just feel much more comfortable now than I did obviously when I got here and was on the field really the next day.”
If Bradford makes the start on Sunday, the expectation would be a pared-down offensive menu for him. He said the coaches haven’t discussed the possibility of him wearing a wristband to help him with the plays, but head coach Mike Zimmer figures they will play to his strengths.
“We’re going to do what he can do, but that’s no different than any other position,” Zimmer said. “We’re going to do things guys can do.”
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Bradford said it will be the coaches’ decision on who starts, but he has been putting plenty of extra time with quarterbacks coach Scott Turner this week at Winter Park.
He also has tight ends coach Pat Shurmur as a resource. Bradford and Shurmur were together in Philadelphia last year and before that in St. Louis.
Another helpful voice is actually his competition for the starting spot, Shaun Hill. The two of them were together in St. Louis in 2014, but Bradford said the situation this week hasn’t been awkward, despite Hill admitting he was shocked and surprised to learn on Saturday morning that the Vikings were trading for Bradford.
“It’s been great. Like I said from Day 1, me and Shaun had a great relationship in St. Louis,” Bradford said. “If you know Shaun, he’s pretty easy to get along with. He’s fun to be around. It’s been good getting back in a room with someone I’ve been with before. Really, we just kind of picked up where we left off.”
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Bradford said he hasn’t ever been a backup in his football career, and his concentration right now is to prepare as if he is the starter and “learn it all.”
“I’ve been through quite a few ups and downs in this league,” he said. “As far as my confidence and my mental approach to things, I don’t think that that would really have any effect on myself.”