Fifty-two mornings ago, Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford left locker rooms and headed to practice fields in Eden Prairie and Philadelphia, respectively. They warmed up 1,167 miles apart, yet were mere moments from their worlds beginning to collide when Bridgewater’s left knee collapsed in a freakish season-ending injury.
“When I found out Teddy had gotten hurt, I think I said some prayers for him just because I’ve been in his shoes,” Bradford recalled Wednesday. “As far as thinking that I could end up here, I really didn’t think about it. I didn’t let it cross my mind.”
And yet here we are in another one of those who-would-have-guessed-it NFL moments.
Bradford still is having the excellent season he and Eagles coach Doug Pederson say they excitedly envisioned for him 52 days ago. The only difference is it’s unfolding in Minnesota, where Bradford will lead the surprising 5-0 Vikings into Philadelphia to play the Eagles (3-2) and rookie No. 2 overall draft pick Carson Wentz on Sunday.
“Initially, I was a little shocked because all along Sam was my [starter] with Chase [Daniel] No. 2 and Carson No. 3,” Pederson said Wednesday while recalling the possibility of the trade that brought the Eagles a first-round pick next year and a conditional fourth-rounder in 2018.
Pederson’s first depth chart as Eagles coach was blown apart within four days of Bridgewater’s injury. Howie Roseman, Eagles executive vice president of football operations, and a friend by the name of Rick Spielman, Vikings general manager, began working on a win-win trade scenario in which the Eagles would be paid handsomely while the Vikings would avoid the ugly possibility of a Super Bowl contender opening a new stadium with only Shaun Hill and Joel Stave at quarterback.
“It’s hard to let your starter go,” Pederson said. “But you just have to know who Carson is and the type of person he is in order [to understand making] that decision.”
Wentz, the big kid from little North Dakota State, was at his home away from home — the woods — doing his second favorite sporting activity — hunting — when Pederson called him Sept. 3. It was four days after Bridgewater’s injury and eight days before the opener. Wentz hadn’t even played in the third preseason game — Bradford was excellent, going 17-for-20 with a 114.0 passer rating — and was getting the call that he was going from No. 3 to opening-day starter.
“I was obviously pretty surprised, but I was super excited,” Wentz said Wednesday. “I had been waiting my time and just diving in and learning as much as I could. I knew my time would come. Obviously it came a little quicker than a lot of people expected. But I was ready for it.”
Wentz was 3-0 and turnover-free through three weeks. He has looked more like a rookie quarterback under heavy pressure after losses to the Lions and Redskins, but he’s still sporting the NFL’s eighth-best passer rating (99.9) with seven touchdowns and one interception.
As for Bradford, the 2010 No. 1 overall pick has needed only four starts as a Viking to post the first four-game winning streak of his career. He leads the league in completion percentage (70.4) and is second in passer rating (109.8) while directing an offense that has yet to turn the ball over this season.
Pederson said he isn’t surprised and credits Bradford’s fast start to the 28-year-old quarterback finally having a healthy offseason after coming back from two major knee injuries. Bradford said it took until the last seven games of last season — his first in Philadelphia after five years in St. Louis — before his body finally “felt great” again.
Over those final seven games, Bradford went 4-3 with a 68.2 completion percentage, 10 touchdowns, four interceptions and a 97.0 passer rating. Yet the Eagles still traded up to select Wentz in April.
That didn’t go over well with Bradford initially. He asked for a trade and skipped two weeks of OTAs before accepting that he wasn’t in control of the situation.
Wednesday, Bradford talked about having a “great experience” in Philadelphia, his friends on that team, a “whirlwind” of emotions the past seven weeks, and how he’s trying to keep things “as normal as possible this week.”
“I think I owe it to all the guys in the locker room to not try to do anything special,” Bradford said. “I think when you get caught up in everything that’s going on outside the building … I think that’s when games can go wrong.”
To call it a revenge game wouldn’t be accurate. After all, Bradford got the trade he wanted, the Eagles got what they expected in Wentz, and both teams are contenders in the NFC.
“It was,” said Pederson, “a win-win once the dust settled on everything.”
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