|With physical, mental and spiritual improvement, Bears' Bradley anticipates big season|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 09 August 2007 12:11|
It was not shocking, either, that those thoughts quickly vanished.
Now, the Chicago Bears wide receiver said he's ``physically, mentally and spiritually'' better as his third season approaches, and he's ready to show that he can withstand the grind of an NFL season.
``People can quote what they want to quote,'' Bradley said. ``I know what I'm made of, what I'm capable of doing. I think the Bears know the same. Injuries just happened at the time that they did, but I don't think they think that I'm injury prone. That's just one thing I can't worry about.''
He's more focused on establishing a spot in the rotation.
A team that has relied on the running game the past few years might open up the offense a bit with a deep set of receivers and a quarterback - Rex Grossman - in his second full season as a starter.
Veteran receiver Muhsin Muhammad showed few signs of slowing down last season, finishing with 863 yards and five touchdowns. Bernard Berrian emerged as a dangerous deep threat with 775 yards and a career-high six touchdowns, four of which were 34 yards or longer.
Return specialist Devin Hester is making the switch from defense to offense. The Bears drafted Greg Olsen in the first round to give them another pass-catching tight end to go with Desmond Clark.
Then there's Bradley.
A second-round draft pick out of Oklahoma in 2005, he is only 25. And at 6-foot-2 and 198 pounds, he may have the best combination of size and speed of any Bears receiver. In high school, he set the Arkansas state high jump record when he cleared 7-4, and he long jumped 24-7 1/2. That athleticism allows him to get to balls others can't catch.
When he's healthy, Bradley gives the Bears another deep threat to go with Berrian. But he's had difficulty staying on the field.
As a rookie, Bradley was second on the team to Muhammad with 18 catches for 230 yards before tearing the ACL in his right knee. That happened against Detroit in late October, in a game coach Lovie Smith said was his ``coming out party.'' Bradley, who had five catches for 88 yards in that game, landed awkwardly after hurdling Lions cornerback Andre Goodman on a 13-yard play late in the first half.
Last year, just as his knee was healing, Bradley suffered a high ankle sprain that caused him to miss five games. He had just one reception for 5 yards midway through the season before catching 13 passes for 277 yards and three touchdowns over the final eight games. That included a 57-yard touchdown against the Giants and a 75-yarder against Green Bay in the regular-season finale.
He's off to a good start this year.
He has made several eye-popping catches in camp and, most importantly, he's healthy.
``Last year, he wasn't healthy in camp,'' offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. ``He'd practice a day or two and be off a day or two, and he wasn't 100 percent when he did practice. He's practicing well. He's playing with a lot more confidence. We'll definitely have a role (for him).''
The Bears plan to use three or even four receivers at times, and Bradley will likely be in when they do. He'll also see time on the field with Muhammad or Berrian.
``Being in training camp, I feel like I'm in the best shape I can possibly be in,'' Bradley said. ``My confidence level is skyrocketing.''
The younger Bradley leans heavily on his father Danny, a quarterback at Oklahoma in the early 1980s.
``Dad's been there and done it,'' Mark Bradley said. ``Dad's done everything that I'm trying to accomplish. That road is not dark. It has lights on it, and it has arrows pointing what direction to go to. The yellow brick road is kind of easy.''