Roster, possibilities helped persuade Sam Bradford to sign with Cardinals

TEMPE, Ariz. -- When Sam Bradford looked around the Arizona Cardinals' locker room during a tour of the team’s facility Thursday, he paid close attention to the names on top of the lockers.

Larry Fitzgerald. David Johnson. Jermaine Gresham.

The more names he saw, the more he started to think.

“You kind of start going through it in your head and you’re like, ‘Man, he’s a really good player; he’s a really good player; they got a good player there,’ and next thing you know, you’re like, ‘Wow, this roster’s really good,’” Bradford said Friday during his introductory news conference.

That roster -- full of “playmakers,” he said -- was one of several factors that swayed his decision to sign a two-year contract with the Cardinals that’s reportedly worth $20 million per season, Bradford said. He felt the offense around him, coupled with the Cardinals’ defense, will give him an opportunity to “win some football games right now.”

Another factor that helped persuade Bradford was the playing surface at University of Phoenix Stadium, the Cardinals’ home field.

It’s natural grass that lives on a tray that slides in and out of the stadium to get sun and water.

“I had an opportunity to see that [Thursday],” Bradford said. “I think, obviously, for me playing on grass was a big deal, too, with my knee and what it’s going through. The grass is easier but having played here multiple times and knowing the surface is great, I think it’s an added benefit to playing here.”

Bradford went 2-1 against the Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium when he played with the St. Louis Rams. Those games, Bradford said, familiarized him with the Cardinals’ fan base.

“Obviously, I’m really excited to play in front of these fans,” he said. “The Red Sea, it’s always been a great atmosphere. It’s a place that we’ve really enjoyed coming to play. We know that we’ve got a home-field advantage here. I think it’s going to be fun to be a part of that.”

Signing with Arizona also means a return to the NFC West, the division Bradford played in from 2010 to 2013. Even though he has been out of the division for a while, returning to it brings some comfort because of the familiarity, he said.

Before Thursday, when Bradford arrived in Arizona, he said he didn’t know much about Cardinals offensive coordinator Mike McCoy. But during the past two days, Bradford and McCoy have sat together and gone over the plan for Arizona’s offense this season.

“I just think, with my conversations with him, what I’ve really gathered is he’s very open-minded,” Bradford said. “I think the thing I’ve enjoyed talking about is he’s not stuck in his ways. He’s not to the point where he’s like, ‘This is what we’re going to do.’

“I think he has a vision for how he sees this offense kind of growing in the spring and I think it’s going to be a process and I think it’s going to be let’s figure out what we’re good at. Let’s figure how out the personnel here fits what he’s done in the past.”

Bradford didn’t have a relationship with head coach Steve Wilks either before he met him this week. But in their little time together so far, especially at dinner Thursday night, Bradford said it was “great” getting to know Wilks and learning about his “mindset and his philosophies, what he wants to accomplish here, his vision for this team and this offense.”

While Bradford isn’t familiar with many faces inside the organization just yet, there’s one he’s known a long time.

Tight end Jermaine Gresham was one of Bradford’s best friends at the University of Oklahoma. The two spent “a lot of time together,” Bradford said.

“He’s a character, obviously,” Bradford said. “It’s going to be fun to be on the field with him again.”

Bradford and Gresham traded text messages during the legal tampering period at the start of the week. Whatever Gresham said helped.

When free agency began, Bradford found himself drawing interest from multiple teams. To some degree, that was a relief. After playing in just two games last season because of a knee injury, he wasn’t sure what his market would look like this year -- or if there’d even be one.

The Cardinals gave him an opportunity, one that he said he hopes to take advantage of.

One that he hopes to have for a while.

“I’ve battled some injuries,” Bradford said, “but hopefully I’ve been able to turn the corner and this is a place where I can be for the rest of my career.”