GREEN BAY – Carl Bradford had been a member of the Green Bay Packers for, oh, about five minutes before he was asked. He’d just been taken in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft, and already, there were questions about whether he might be better suited for inside linebacker instead of outside linebacker in the Packers’ scheme.
On Monday, those incessant questions were finally answered in the affirmative.
Undersized and so far ineffective at outside linebacker in camp and three preseason games, the 6-foot-1, 252-pound Bradford was moved inside during Monday’s practice, less than a week before the team must pare the roster down to 53 players. (The Packers’ roster currently stands at 81, with six roster moves still needing to be made to reach the 75-man limit by 3 p.m. Tuesday.)
“He’s been able to pick up the playbook, but what we’re looking for is just being able to transfer that on the field as far as production. I know there’s a high concern for that,” linebackers coach Winston Moss said after practice. “I’m pretty sure he’s aware of that, and I’m pretty sure he’s had to address it as well. But he’s a great guy. He’s working hard and he’s trying to take it all in and trying to be effective.”
With Bradford, who played most snaps with his hand in the dirt at Arizona State, the Packers coaches were insistent after the draft on May 10 that he would begin his career outside. But in camp, Bradford found himself behind Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, Mike Neal, Nick Perry, Andy Mulumba, Nate Palmer and undrafted rookies Jayrone Elliott and Adrian Hubbard until the switch was made Monday. Palmer also spent time inside Monday.
Asked why they waited so long to move Bradford, defensive coordinator Dom Capers replied: “I think this: You want to give guys, especially young guys, a chance to look at them on position, so you give them a fair opportunity. If you start [experimenting] too early, then they’re kind of 50-50 and you aren’t quite sure. I think with both, with Carl Bradford, and even Nate Palmer — both those guys, we felt like this would be the time to get a look at those guys inside, to see how they respond.”
It’s hard to imagine the Packers giving up on Bradford after five weeks of training camp, especially given his draft status. In 10 drafts as the Packers’ general manager, Ted Thompson has released only one fourth-round pick following his first training camp: In 2005, he cut TCU wide receiver Cory Rodgers after picking him in the fourth round.
Still, Bradford knows that he must prove himself worthy of a roster spot, whether that’s inside or outside. For his first day, and for having gotten the news of the switch that morning, he felt he did OK.
“I liked it. I like coming downhill and opposing those tackles and guards and smashing those running backs,” said Bradford, whose first inside snaps were during the half-line run drill. “Wherever, man. Inside, outside, I’ll play wherever. I believe I’m versatile enough to play either position.
“I’m kind of their chess piece and moving me around, seeing what I can do. I like it. It allows me to understand more and gain more knowledge of the game.”
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