RENTON, Wash. – Allen Bradford embodies the type of characteristics Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll looks for in players to be a part of his team – work hard, battle through adversity, don’t complain and you will be rewarded.
And after spending most of the last two seasons on the Seahawks’ practice squad, the 5-11, 235-pound thumper of a middle linebacker got an opportunity this week to run with the first-unit defense because Bobby Wagner is out with a sore shoulder.
And you can pretty much guarantee Bradford is not taking the extra reps for granted.
“I feel good, but I’m not comfortable,” Bradford said. “So I still feel like I’ve got room for improvement. And I’ve just got to keep riding on the horse and taking stepping stones, and just getting there. I’ve got 10 other guys that depend on me to make sure I know what I’m doing,”
Bradford has been playing for Carroll since he was a 17-year-old, Parade All-American running back out of Colton, Calif. Back then, Bradford wanted to follow in the footsteps of great USC linebackers like Clay Matthews Jr., Junior Seau and Lofa Tatupu. But Carroll had other plans.
“The first day, we started him on the defense and I always wanted him to be the tailback because he’s such a brute,” Carroll said. “He always wanted to play defense.”
Although not his first choice, Bradford was an effective runner for his five years with the Trojans, finishing with 1,585 yards on 267 carries (5.9 per carry average) and 16 touchdowns in 52 games played.
Bradford was selected by Tampa Bay in the sixth round of the 2011 draft, but released midseason.
The Seahawks claimed Bradford off of waivers, released him and added him to the practice squad a few days later. During that time, Bradford talked to linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. and Carroll about moving to linebacker.
During his first two seasons in Seattle, Bradford would sometimes work the scout squad on both sides of the ball for the Seahawks, particularly when the team was facing a physical running back like Steven Jackson.
And the Seahawks showed their commitment to Bradford, keeping him on the practice squad even when he suffered a broken hand last season.
“Every time I come out on the grass I smell the field, get the feel of it, because I guess I kind of know what it feels like when it’s gone already,” Bradford said. “And I don’t take days for granted. I’ve got to take care of my body because I’ve only got one. And then I’ve got to get in that film, text Coach Norton and do whatever I have to do to be on my game.”
Bradford, who turns 25 on Aug. 31, is not a blazer. But he ran a 4.58-second, 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine before the draft, and bench-pressed 225 pounds 28 times.
However, Bradford’s strength is the physical way he plays the game.
“I run through fullbacks,” Bradford said. “I’m going to hit the running back. I’ll hit the receiver – wherever the ball goes, I’m going to go, and I’m going to crush it, regardless. That’s just my mentality since I’ve been playing football.”