Quarterback Sam Bradford ready to move past ‘dark times’ and lead Cardinals

New Cardinals quarterback Sam Bradford is ready to be defined by more than just injuries. (Photo by Matthew Tonis/Cronkite News)

TEMPE — Arizona Cardinals quarterback Sam Bradford’s career has been highlighted by one thing over the rest: injuries.

When the newest Cardinals player was introduced at the team’s practice facility Friday, he gave perspective on how those ailments have impacted him moving to his fourth franchise in five seasons.

“It’s frustrating,” Bradford sighed. “There’s been definitely some dark times. You fight those battles mentally. But every time you go through that process and every time that you turn the corner and you’re able to get yourself back on the field, I feel like I’ve come back mentally tougher and mentally stronger than the time before.”

Officially announced Friday morning, Bradford is slated to make $20 million playing for Arizona this season, with $15 million of that guaranteed. The contract also includes a $20 million team option for 2019.

Although one-years deals typically minimize risk, Bradford’s history suggests otherwise.

Since being selected as the top pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, Bradford has played all 16 games just twice and not since 2012, when he and the St. Louis Rams finished a half-game outside the playoffs.

Baltimore Ravens safety Eric Weddle said over Twitter when Bradford’s signing was announced that the quarterback “has been paid more for nothing than anyone in history of nfl.”

But when he has played, Bradford has been effective. In 2016, he set the NFL record for completion percentage in a season at 71.6 percent and holds the Philadelphia Eagles franchise record for completion percentage in a season at 65 percent.

After that clean season, it looked like Bradford’s injury past was behind him.

Bradford was off to a hot start to 2017, winning NFC Offensive Player of the Week for his 346 yards and three touchdowns in a win over New Orleans, but suffered what was characterized at the time as a possibly career-threatening knee injury.

“It seems like each time, it’s a little bit tougher mentally,” Bradford said. “As you get older, you just realize how precious each game is and how few of these opportunities you are given. So I think each time it gets taken away from you, it’s a little bit harder.”

Bradford played again briefly in Week 5, but was essentially on the shelf for the remainder of the season. He was dressed and ready to play in the postseason, so Bradford feels ready to go for the Cardinals in 2018.

“I feel good right now,” Bradford said. “Obviously last year was difficult, but after the procedure I had in November, I was able to get back in a position to play and was able to suit up the two playoff games in Minnesota and really felt good with where my knee was at the time.”

He said last season was the most difficult to get over because of how well he felt like he was playing coming out of training camp and into the regular season.

Having to watch from the sideline wasn’t easy for Bradford and he hopes to turn this chance into something that sticks.

“There was a time last year where I was just uncertain if I was going to be able to play again or if I was going to have the opportunity to play again,” Bradford said. “And to be given that opportunity … I’m going to make the most of it.”

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