EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Sam Bradford has been named one of the Minnesota Vikings’ captains, an obviously natural selection as the quarterback.
This is the first time for Bradford serving in that role on the field since 2013 with St. Louis, though, thanks to an injury and two trades. Finally settled after that whirlwind season in 2016 for the Vikings, Bradford has the comfort in his surroundings to help foster the high level of leadership that his position demands.
“It means a lot, and I take a lot of pride in it,” Bradford said. “I think there’s a lot of responsibility that comes with that and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure to live up to that.”
The 29-year-old’s performance in the opener Monday against New Orleans sure looked like that of the franchise player.
“I said this offseason that this would be a big year for Sam,” said tight end Kyle Rudolph, who caught one of the three touchdown passes. “I wasn’t surprised.”
The first pick in the 2010 draft by St. Louis, Bradford never truly found his footing there with some weak supporting casts and major injuries that squelched his progress. He didn’t play in his final season with the Rams because of a torn ACL in his right knee for a second straight year. Then he was dealt to Philadelphia in 2015 and to Minnesota in 2016. Setting the NFL record for completion percentage last season was quite the accomplishment considering he arrived eight days before the opener.
With an already reserved demeanor, Bradford was especially quiet off the field last year. Coach Mike Zimmer barely got the chance to know him, before catching up this offseason through evening text-message conversations about the offensive scheme or the practice that day and even visiting him in his native Oklahoma.
“Having been here for a year with our guys and just building those relationships, I think it makes it easier to be more vocal. I think they’re more comfortable with me now. I’m more comfortable with them,” Bradford said, adding: “If if I see something or feel like we need to talk about something, I’m a lot more comfortable going up to everyone and making sure it gets communicated. As opposed to last year, I was really just trying to figure out what I was doing and making sure I wasn’t messing everything up.”
Bradford was particularly demonstrative Monday following his touchdown passes, whether yelling in celebration toward the Vikings sideline or approaching Rudolph with a hard slap to the helmet.
“He’s comfortable around everyone now,” Rudolph said, “and we’re able to see that shine through.”
Bradford, who was selected by the league as the NFC Offensive Player of the Week, posted a career-best passer rating (143.0) with 346 yards on 27-for-32 passing and no turnovers against the Saints. His completion percentage (84.4) was the third highest in a season opener in NFL history.
“I keep telling everybody, `Sam is as accurate as there is,’” Zimmer said.
Bradford was listed as limited in practice Wednesday because of a knee injury, but there was no obvious sign of trouble during the game. More concerning this week for the Vikings might be linebacker Anthony Barr, who was held out with a hamstring injury. Barr has played in 20 straight games, including the playoffs, and did not miss a snap Monday.