Steve Wilks: Cardinals won’t rush Sam Bradford back

By Nick Shook
Around The NFL writer
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The Arizona Cardinals invested $20 million in Sam Bradford for one season. They’re doing their best to ensure they get at least 16 games out of him in 2018.

New Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks said as much Tuesday in speaking with reporters, stressing health over speed.

“The biggest thing we’re going to do with Sam is to make sure that he’s ready to play 16-plus games,” Wilks said of Bradford. “I’ve seen what he can do over the years. I’m not concerned about trying to get him out there as soon as possible to be able to throw the ball.

“We’ve come up with a plan … we want to make sure we’re giving Sam everything that he needs to be successful. And we created a plan and we’re trying to follow that plan accordingly.”

Bradford hasn’t exactly been the model of health for a football player in recent years, which is no fault of his own, but instead a collection of bad luck. After playing in just seven games in 2013 as a Ram, he tore his ACL in the 2014 preseason and missed his entire final season in St. Louis. He was traded to Philadelphia and bounced back, appearing in 14 games before being dealt to Minnesota a week before the regular season began in 2016. He played in 15 games that season, completing 71.6 percent of his passes for 3,877 yards, 20 touchdowns and five interceptions.

Two seasons of quality play and mostly good health made Bradford appear to be a reliable option entering 2017. He was electric in Week 1, completing 27 of 32 passes for 346 yards and three touchdowns in a 29-19 win over New Orleans.

He played once more, in Week 5, before shutting it down for the remainder of the season due to knee issues. When he returned in that game at Chicago, he looked like a shell of a starting quarterback, visibilty struggling to protect himself due to a lack of mobility.

Six months later, Bradford isn’t quite ready to get back on the field. But Arizona — a team desperate enough for a serviceable starting QB to dump $20 million on one — is situating itself to welcome him into the offense when they need him. Fortunately, training camp is still more than three months away.

“Again, I’m not really trying to rush it,” Wilks said. “He knows his body more than us. We’re trying to make sure we give him the things he needs on a day-to-day basis to make sure he feels healthy when he goes out there, and that he feels very confident about that.

“I feel great with where he is right now. I think he’s making progress in everything we’re doing. But, once again, we want to make sure that he’s here for the long haul, particularly 16-plus games.”

Arizona already attempted to address its porous offensive line by signing veterans Justin Pugh and Andre Smith. Bradford’s chances would be significantly improved if he had a healthy David Johnsonlining up behind him as well.

“He’s so excited right now just to be back, you know?” Wilks said of Johnson. “He talked about the things he learned sitting out last year. I’m excited to get him back on the field. He’s a major part of what we’re trying to do. He’s going to be a major part of our success.”

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