John McMullen - NFL Editor Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Take your pick ... Sam Bradford is either a legitimate franchise quarterback derailed by some terrible luck or the last of the bonus-baby draft busts, a player destined to go down as a disappointment.
Judging by Chip Kelly's actions since acquiring Bradford from the St. Louis Rams for Nick Foles and a second-round pick, even the Eagles coach doesn't know which camp to put his foot in.
On one hand. Kelly obviously likes Bradford's skill set because he gave up a quarterback who put up better numbers in Foles and added a draft choice on top of it. Meanwhile, the Eagles mentor also fended off Cleveland's overtures in the form of a first-round pick for the oft-injured signal caller.
However, Kelly also tried to load up the U-Haul with everything from draft picks and proven veteran players in a thinly veiled attempt to acquire Marcus Mariota, and he also has refused to give Bradford, who has one year left on his rookie deal, an extension to this point.
"I'm not 100 percent confident in anything," Kelly said when asked about Bradford's much-talked about injury history, which includes back-to-back seasons derailed by ACL tears. "No one is ... We're going to put together a team. We think Sam has a great skill set. The research our doctors have given us in terms of the guys coming off those injuries in terms of their recovery rate is 90 percent, so we feel real confident in that."
Bradford attempted to fend off some of the mixed signals on Thursday as the media got its first chance to see the former No. 1 overall pick in Eagles' green at Thursday's OTAs.
"We didn't really have any discussions about that," Bradford said when asked about Philadelphia's well-publicized chase for Mariota. "I don't think it's (the team's) job to fill me in on what they're thinking upstairs."
Perhaps but an uncertain future is no way to buoy the confidence of a player who reportedly was considering retirement shortly after his latest ACL injury, something Kelly was keenly aware of because he was playing both sides, coddling Bradford while chasing Mariota.
"I've felt pretty confident all along (about being the Eagles' QB choice), just in the conversations I've had with Chip from the beginning," Bradford claimed. "Fortunately, I'm still here, and I'm excited about the opportunity I have."
The opportunity is likely Bradford's last.
He has the one year left on his massive rookie deal and is due a $13 million stipend this season. His injury history and shaky production while in St. Louis has the Eagles prudently taking a wait-and-see approach with their presumptive Week 1 starter,
"That's not up to me," Bradford said when asked about a possible extension. "Obviously, if they want to talk, we will talk."
For now the only talk is about Bradford getting healthy and staying healthy. He was throwing in individual drills on Thursday while veteran Mark Sanchez handled the first-team work in team drills. Bradford is scheduled to join seven-on-seven work next week and should be a full go some time in training camp.
"I don't think (the late start) sets him back," Kelly said. "Everybody's got to deal with whatever they're dealt. We have full confidence that he will be back, though."
"He is on schedule," the coach continued. "We all think there's three phases: there's medical rehab, there is performance rehab, and then there's prepared to play. He's probably right at the tail end of medical rehab. He'll probably start throwing some seven-on-seven next week. I think he's right on schedule in terms of where he is."
Bradford also flashed confidence in how he's progressing.
"I'm sure that once I get out there and take some reps in seven-on-seven, things will really start to come together," Bradford said. "I would say in the past six to eight weeks, things have turned the corner (with the knee) and I've made a lot of progress. As long as we continue to trend in the right direction, I'll be fine."
Much of the optimism in Philadelphia regarding Bradford stems from his pedigree because the raw numbers he put together with the Rams, a less-than- stellar 18-30-1 record as a starter along with a nondescript 79.3 passer rating, were hardly impressive.
"The way Sam flicks the ball is effortless," tight end Zach Ertz told the Philadelphia Daily News. "Everything he does is effortless. We just have to get him healthy.
"What you see is what you should see when you think about a No. 1 (overall) pick. I played with Andrew (Luck), who also was a No. 1 pick. They're very similar."
Similar except for one rather big bugaboo -- winning.
Style points and reputation at the college level will only take you so far and they now need to be replaced by actual success on the football field, something the upgraded supporting cast Bradford now has with the Eagles and Kelly's much-vaunted, quarterback-proof offense should help with.
"I haven't gone out there and gotten to run it," Bradford said when discussing the Eagles' offense. "But watching it on tape, I love the tempo and how fast we play. It fits my style in making quick decisions. The run game is a little different; we've been running two-back power. It's a lot of the zone-read stuff, which is new to me, but I see the advantages of it. And it's going to be a lot of fun to get out and actually run it."