Depending on who you ask, Sam Bradford's next start at quarterback for the Oklahoma Sooners--assuming there will be another one--will take place anywhere from this Saturday to the 2012 season opener.
OK, actually, we do know that he won't be lining up under center on Saturday against Tulsa. But take a look at what has been reported by various media outlets this week alone:
- On ESPN's College Football Live on Wednesday, Joe Schad didn't give a timetable for Bradford's return, but did say the defending Heisman winner was rehabbing three hours a day in preparation for coming back.
- On an Austin afternoon radio show on Tuesday, "injury expert" Will Carroll and Orangebloods.com publisher Geoff Ketchum commiserated about some bits of information both had received from undisclosed sources: the shoulder injury is much worse than initially thought; three doctors have told Slingin' Sam no more slingin' this year; Bradford's parents want him to shut it down, too; Bradford and coach Bob Stoops continue to look for an opinion more in line with what they want to hear.
- James Hale of OU Insider ($) said on Wednesday Bradford would be back by the Miami game the first weekend in October or the following week for the Big 12 opener against Baylor.
Then, there's Stoops, who's just not saying anything in an effort to discourage speculation. (And clearly that's working.)
Of course, the fact that Bradford opted not to enter the 2009 NFL draft in favor of returning for another season in
crimson and cream has added yet another level of intrigue beyond just his status for the Red River Shootout. Specifically, how would the injury impact Bradford's pro prospects, and what would be the best course of action for him to maintain his status as a high first-round pick?
For example, maybe Bradford should rush back to prove his toughness to NFL scouts. On the other hand, what if coming back too soon increases his chances of reinjuring the shoulder? Maybe Bradford should shut it down for the year to ensure the shoulder heals fully. But, wait, couldn't that make him "out of sight, out of mind" in the eyes of the NFL?
Now, I don't know Bradford. I have never met him in my life. If I know anyone who happens to know anyone who would really have any idea how he feels about this subject, it would only be through one of those "six-degrees-of-separation" things.
But what if we're all missing the boat on what Bradford is all about? Is it even remotely possible that Bradford could care less about the NFL, that his "I'm-going-to-Disneyland" moment is right now?
This isn't some la-dee-da paeon to a kid who "did the right thing." I'm not talking about getting an education or fulfilling commitments or enjoying your youth or any other sanctimonious inanities that you usually hear bandied about in these kinds of discussions. What I am talking about is just living your life how you want to.
It seems like it's human nature to enjoy the pursuits in which we excel. It pumps up our egos when we're praised, so why not keep doing the things that make us feel good about ourselves? And if we're successful in such endeavors, then that's proof we made the right decision. It all sounds great until the day you wake up and realize your life revolves around something that just doesn't push your buttons.
After hearing all the talk about what's best for Bradford's future, I thought back to the day when Bradford and teammates Gerald McCoy, Jermaine Gresham and Trent Williams announced they were coming back to campus. I looked through the coverage of Bradford's press conference in search of a quote about his desire to play football professionally. I couldn't find one, but I did find this:
"I've dreamed about playing at Oklahoma since I was little, and my three years here have been probably three of the best years of my life, and I really feel that there's no need to cut this experience short. I'm really looking forward to coming back and competing for a fourth straight Big 12 championship and another opportunity at a national championship."
Compare that to New York Jets rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez's remarks when he revealed his intentions to enter the draft:
"It has been my dream since I was just a little kid to play in the NFL and thanks to this great academic institution and football program, I have the opportunity to realize that dream."
I'm sure Sanchez will always love Southern Cal, but his words leave little room for ambiguity about his ultimate goal. Bradford sounds like he already may have reached his.
The reality is that successful NFL quarterbacks are both born and made. There's a minimum threshold of physical ability required, but becoming great takes obsessive dedication to a never-ending process of learning, practicing and improving. Oh, and standing in your way are some of the finest athletes in the world intent on ending your career.
There's plenty of fame and money to be had, and the fantasy of being a pro football player sounds great to the washed-up couch potatoes like me who blog about this stuff and don't have to worry about actually living it. I might feel differently if I was the one spending three hours a day for months rehabbing an injury. (Especially knowing that I'll probably be going through the same process again in two or three years, if not sooner.)
Besides being a highly coveted NFL prospect, Bradford's also an outstanding student. It sounds like he's a beloved teammate, and I've yet to hear or read anyone speak ill of him off the field.
Whether it's 2010 or 2011, I'm sure we'll see Bradford on stage with Roger Goodell being hailed as the future of an NFL franchise. I'm just about as sure that he'll be a star.
If that's what he wants.