The (Real) Last Stand of Carl Bradford
When a team drafts a well-respected player, it's easy to want to explain things away when that player doesn't immediately pan out.
For instance, 2014 fourth round draft pick Carl Bradford seemed destined to find a role somewhere on the Packers' defense from the moment he was drafted. The linebacker "shows an explosive burst to close emphatically" said one scout. He "plays with urgency and beelines to the ball" said another.
Yet he hasn't, and he may never. This year could truly and finally be the last stand of Carl Bradford.
If that line sounds familiar, it's because I wrote almost the exact same piece two years ago. Bradford had been shifted to inside linebacker after looking completely overwhelmed as an outside pass rusher. The results were just as bad inside. Since making the switch, Bradford has played in exactly as many NFL regular season games as you or I have: zero.
Why? It may be related to desire, and that's not just an internet "HE DOESN'T WANT IT" hot take. Bradford himself admits that he may have lost some the fire that motivated him during his days at Arizona State.
In 2015, he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Tyler Dunne that "I know they're looking for that fire from me that I played at ASU with and I'm going to bring that."
The fire didn't show up last year, but Bradford tells Packers.com that this year it's going to be different.
"Right now, my mindset is to go get it. I've done enough thinking these past two years. I know what to do."
He should by this point, because more than any other time in his career in Green Bay, Bradford is looking up at serious competition on the depth chart. Draft picks Jake Ryan and Blake Martinez are the presumed starters. Last year's incumbent, Sam Barrington, is back from injury. Well-regarded undrafted free agents Beniquez Brown and Manoa Pikula aren't going to sit around and wait for Bradford. Even Clay Matthews remains an option.
If Bradford's fire is going to return, it has to be now. The only other option is never.