I wrote this article for a journalism class I'm taking and I figured it was relevant enough that it merited a fanpost. Comment away!
Stewart Bradley’s Concussion and the Eagles Defense
The big story from the Philadelphia Eagles’ loss to the Green Bay Packers was Kevin Kolb’s ineffectiveness and subsequent injury, followed by Michael Vick’s surprising return to pre-Leavenworth form. But while ESPN has been talking up a non-existent quarterback controversy in the wake of Kolb’s concussion, another Eagles injury seems to have been lost in the shuffle. And this one may be just as important if the Eagles are expected to remain competitive during the 2010 regular season.
With less than five minutes left in the second quarter, starting middle linebacker Stewart Bradley collided headfirst with teammate Ernie Sims’s thigh. He stayed down for a moment, rose to his feet, and successfully took one step before promptly collapsing back to the ground. Bradley would be helped off the field by trainers, and during halftime he was diagnosed with a concussion. Initial reports indicate that Bradley is very likely unavailable for next Sunday’s game against the Lions, and he could miss even more time if he continues to fail the league-mandated medical tests required after a player suffers a concussion.
This news bodes very badly for the Eagles defense. Although Bradley is not a widely-known player, Eagles fans understand how integral he is to the defense’s performance. As a first-time starter in 2008, Bradley racked up over 100 tackles and the Eagles defense ranked third in the NFL. Billed as a budding Pro-Bowl prospect entering the 2009 season, Bradley tore his ACL in training camp, ending his season before it began. None of Bradley’s backups handled the job well, and before the regular season had ended, defensive coordinator Sean McDermott had used six different players at the starting middle linebacker position.
Coming into 2010, Bradley quickly ended any uncertainty about the health of his knee by starring in training camp and the preseason. He appeared to have regained all of his speed and looked like he was going to pick up exactly where he had left off in 2008. And for the first twenty-five minutes of the season opener, it looked like he was doing exactly that. Up until that point, the Eagles had sacked Aaron Rodgers twice, intercepted one pass, and held the explosive Packers offense to just one field goal. In the five minutes between Bradley’s injury and halftime, the Packers gained 73 yards and scored 10 points.
After halftime backup linebacker Omar Gaither, who started at middle linebacker for the Eagles in 2007, took over the position. Gaither is a relatively speedy ‘backer, but he lacks Bradley’s size and doesn’t seem to have the same ability to diagnose plays. As a result, Gaither had trouble stuffing the gaps in run support and was visibly caught out of position on several occasions. In the fourth quarter, Gaither and the defense played much better and didn’t allow the Packers a score, but the damage had already been done. The 17-point lead that the Packers had gained proved to be insurmountable.
The most alarming aspect of Bradley’s injury is that he actually returned to the field before the half. The medical staff, apparently not seeing his unsuccessful attempt to stand, gave him the league-standard concussion test and he passed. After a short spell on the sideline, Bradley donned his helmet and went back onto the field. He played miserably for several plays and at halftime he was re-examined by the medical staff. At that time, Bradley’s symptoms were obvious enough that the staff felt it was necessary to keep him out of the rest of the game. Despite an outcry by NFL Players’ Association officials, the NFL determined that the Eagles had correctly followed procedure before letting Bradley back out onto the field. Over the course of this week, he will face a daily battery of tests to determine how quickly he is recovering, and he must be examined by an independent physician before he will be allowed to practice. The likelihood of him playing on Sunday is quite small.
Barring an unforeseen setback, however, Bradley is not expected miss a significant amount of time this season. He should return to the field in time to face the Washington Redskins in week four, the Eagles first division matchup of 2010.