TEMPE, Ariz. — The divide between what quarterback Sam Bradford wants to accomplish and what his Arizona Cardinals teammates want to see from him during Sunday’s preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys is about as wide as the state of Texas.
Bradford, who played in just two regular-season games last season with the Minnesota Vikings because of a knee injury, hopes to keep getting reacclimated to football.
His teammates just want to see Bradford healthy. So, if that means he plays only five or six plays Sunday and then stands on the sideline with some sunflower seeds, that’s OK with them.
“That would be great,” receiver Larry Fitzgerald said.
The reality is Bradford may not see the field for long. Coach Steve Wilks has been coy about how long Bradford — or any other starter, for that matter — will play Sunday night in what will be his final action of the preseason. But for however long Bradford plays, Sunday is the final phase of his comeback before stepping onto the field in Week 1 against the Washington Redskins.
“I think anytime you can get out there and just feel the speed of the game,” Bradford said. “It’s just hard to really simulate that game speed in practice. After having the injury last year and not playing a ton of football, just feeling bodies in the pocket, feeling people around my legs and being able to move around, that’s really what I’m looking to get out of it and just get comfortable with that feeling.”
“I already knew he was going to be ready to go before we even played the preseason,” said David Johnson of Sam Bradford. Rob Schumacher/Arizona Republic via USA TODAY Sports
Ideally, Bradford won’t have to deal with any Cowboys defenders around his knees, Wilks and guard Justin Pugh both said. But they both understand, regardless of the protection, it’ll eventually happen.
And when it does, Bradford has to be ready for it, Wilks said.
Wilks said he doesn’t need to see much more from Bradford this preseason. Bradford has gone a combined 7-for-7 for 67 yards while averaging 9.6 yards per attempt in two preseason starts. On Sunday, Wilks wants to see more of a fine-tuning.
“Just the mechanics of really running the offense, the timing,” Wilks said. “It’s going to be good being on the road. Noise. Loud in there so you got to be on point with our communication. That’s really what I’m looking for — just him to take command of the offense.”
It’s already started.
On running back David Johnson’s touchdown run in the second quarter Friday against New Orleans, Bradford checked out of the play offensive coordinator Mike McCoy called.
“He didn’t hesitate,” McCoy said of Bradford. “He moved David over and checked to the right play and the rest is history.”
Those who practice with and against Bradford daily don’t think he needs any more preseason reps.
Pugh just wants to see him jog out to the huddle for the first play against Washington, and left tackle D.J. Humphries took it one step further.
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“I actually don’t want Sam to put a helmet on anymore,” he said. “Personally, I don’t want to see Sam until Washington. I don’t know what everybody else needs to see.
“But I’m also not a coach. I get paid to block people and not make orders. I don’t need to see nothing from that dude. At all.”
Johnson thinks Bradford is already ready.
“He knows what he has to do,” Johnson said. “He’s been really lighting it up.
“I already knew he was going to be ready to go before we even played the preseason. It’s really good to see him come out and play really well.”
Bradford has been “as good as advertised,” Fitzgerald said. His passes have “zip” on them, said Pugh, who added Bradford has been “commanding” the huddle.
“He’s ready to go,” Pugh said. “He looks great out there.
“He’s a completion machine. Leads his team. We go as he goes, so I’m excited about it.”
From facing Bradford in practice, veteran safety Antoine Bethea sees a quarterback who’s already making the right throws in the right reads while diagnosing the right coverages.
“Really, just for him personally, how does he feel?” Bethea said. “From the sidelines, from going against him in practice, he looks good to me.”