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This story appears in ESPN The Magazines October 31 NBA Preview Issue. Subscribe today!SAM BRADFORD APPEARS to be the least subversive player in the NFL. He runs between practice drills in his red jersey like a JV player trying to impress his coaches. He drives a lifted Ford F-150, the same model hes driven since entering the league in 2010 -- also the vehicle known for being the most popular in America. Yep, thats all I drive, he says with a shrug. Even his attempts at exuberance can go wrong. After throwing for his second touchdown in the Vikings Week 5 win over the Texans, Bradford celebrated by jumping into the chest of Alex Boone and promptly bounced off the 310-pound guard like a finch flying into a window.But perhaps the most Bradford thing about Bradford? The long, floppy sleeves that make it look as if hes wearing a jersey that has to be returned to the equipment shed at the end of the season. When his name is announced before games at U.S. Bank Stadium, he jogs out of the Viking-ship facade without so much as a fist pump. Slow and steady, he is nothing more than a guy whos been told where to go and is intent on getting there unnoticed, as efficiently as possible.When asked whether anything interesting happened to him over the past five months, Bradford says, Been pretty boring, to be honest with you. Nothing really comes to mind. He plays it straight just long enough before issuing a wide smile that reaches his eyes a beat or two later. Its phenomenal how hes mastered the art of saying nothing, but in a friendly way, Boone says. I love it.This man, whose unobtrusive personality has meshed perfectly with the impact he has made since being the No. 1 pick in 2010, is leading the offense for the last unbeaten team in the NFL. This man, whose career is distinguished by punctuation -- question marks for the time hes been on the field, commas for the vast amount hes missed to injury -- is authoring the type of personal renaissance that is already triggering a reconsideration of himself and the most glorified and overanalyzed position in sports.It began when Bradford was traded from the Eagles to the Vikings after Teddy Bridgewater suffered a horrific knee injury less than two weeks before the regular season. The trade followed an offseason that did nothing to enhance his reputation. Bradford signed a contract extension in Philadelphia, saw the Eagles trade up to draft Carson Wentz at No. 2 overall and then held himself out of voluntary offseason workouts in what was described by Americas sports media as either the dumbest or the most pointless leverage-free holdout in history.Despite the turmoil, and despite making it known after the draft that he wanted to be traded, Bradford didnt anticipate being a possible replacement for Bridgewater. Honestly, I should have, he says, but they didnt want to trade me in the spring, so I figured they werent going to trade me a week before the season.In Minnesota, Bradford got a crash course in coordinator Norv Turners offense, started against the Packers eight days after he arrived and has only gotten better since. Through four starts, he was seventh in the NFL in Total QBR and second to Atlantas Matt Ryan in passer rating among quarterbacks who had thrown at least 100 passes. Air-dropped into a new offense just before the season opener, he has not thrown an interception.In fact, Bradfords resurgence makes him the perfect subject to explore the cult of the quarterback, the cottage industry thats grown up around the idea that an NFL playbook is the sports equivalent of the Human Genome Project. How could he possibly grasp the convolutions and minutiae of an NFL offense, one devised by a legendary offensive coach, in just two weeks?Presented with this, Bradford suddenly turns subversive. He answers silently, with a cartoon eye roll, then says, I learn a new system every year anyway.ON SEPT. 3, a Saturday, Bradford and his wife, Emma, were taking advantage of a rare weekend without football to do some fishing in Oklahoma. At 8 a.m., Sam received a call. Eagles coach Doug Pederson was on the line, informing Bradford hed been traded to the Vikings. By 1:30 that afternoon, Bradford and his wife were on a private jet heading for Minneapolis, and two hours after that Sam was sitting in a meeting with Turner and his son, Scott, the Vikings quarterbacks coach.Theres no magic formula, Scott Turner told Bradford. Weve got to attack this thing. Were not going to ease into it. Were going to throw a bunch of stuff against the wall and make it stick.Starting the next day, Bradford arrived at the teams practice facility each morning at 6 to learn the terminology of the offense. At 7 a.m., Scott Turner would spend an hour showing him PowerPoint presentations of formations and pass routes before the regular quarterbacks meeting. From there, Bradford sequestered himself with film study before practice. After practice, Scott would summon a few low-level coaches -- or just random people, as Bradford puts it -- to run routes on the practice field. After that, Bradford and Scott would go back into the building and review video cutups of the plays theyd just walked through. Other times they would set up Bradford with a virtual reality headset, called STRIVR, to give him real-time simulations.Sams obviously a very smart guy, but its also him basically living in here, safety Harrison Smith says. Every time I was in here, he was always in here. If we were off, he was here. I honestly dont know how much he left the facility when he first got here.Bradford, typically understated, says he spent an average of 14 hours at the facility before going home to eat dinner and study more film. I dont know if I ever came up for a breath over those two weeks, he says. Definitely crazy.Running back Matt Asiata says, When he first got here, I looked at Sam and thought, This guy looks like a smart guy. He has to be. Norvs offense is pretty ... lets say its Spanish sometimes.Still, Bradford cautions anyone from making too much of his achievement. To me, you can pretty much learn anything, he says. Ive run pretty much all these concepts somewhere in my career. The concepts arent all that different, but the small details within the concept might be different.The way Bradford explains it, the hard part is compartmentalizing words that have different meanings in different schemes. Lets say green means one thing in Philadelphia and something entirely different in Minnesota. When faced with green in Minnesota, he has to translate it from the previous language. OK, what hits my brain? he asks himself. But over time, that fades out and this becomes your language. This is what you understand, so when you hear these playcalls, you get it.Scott Turner told him, Its like someone parachuted you into Mexico. You know what a banana is, but you have no idea what they call it.Normally, a quarterback -- even a quarterback who has gone through three regime changes in three years, as Bradford has -- is provided with at least an offseason to learn the new language. In Minnesota, Bradford had just two weeks.He doesnt know much about us, so hes just finding the open guy, receiver Adam Thielen says. The way it happened so fast, there was no other choice but to trust us.LESS THAN FOUR minutes into the Vikings rout of the Texans, Thielen runs down the right sideline and puts a double move on cornerback Johnathan Joseph as Bradford releases the ball. When it spins off his fingertips in a geometrically precise arc, its outcome as obvious as its spiral, you know precisely why he was chosen No. 1 in 2010. And as it lands in Thielens hands, as if dropped there by a gentle wind, for a 36-yard touchdown, you know why the Vikings gave up a first-round pick in next years draft and a conditional fourth in 2018 to get him to replace Bridgewater.Those who believe in Bradford do so despite his past, despite his injury history and despite an undercurrent of skepticism about his mental toughness. He missed the entire 2014 season after injuring his knee midway through 2013 and re-injuring it in preseason. He threw for more than 3,700 yards in Chip Kellys offense in Philadelphia last season, but 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions left critics unconvinced. Of the six quarterbacks taken with the No. 1 pick since QBR became a measurement of a quarterbacks worth, only the infamous bust JaMarcus Russell had a worse rating than Bradfords 49.8.But is it possible that quarterbacks arent out there by themselves?Minnesotas offense, after losing Adrian Peterson in Week 2, employs more of what Bradford does best: working out of the shotgun, throwing short, quick passes to make up for the NFLs worst rushing offense. In leading Minnesota over the Texans to go 5-0, Bradford was 22-of-30 for 271 yards and two TDs. But to get a clear view of Bradfords resurgence, you also have to look to the other side of the ball. The Vikings D, fast and nasty, is allowing an NFL-low 12.6 points per game. (By comparison, the Eagles allowed 26.9 a year ago.)As for the persistent suggestions that Bradford has lacked mental toughness, that causes Vikings tight ends coach Pat Shurmurs eyes to flash and his voice to rise. Thats so far from the truth, he says, leaning into the words. Shurmur was Bradfords offensive coordinator in his rookie year in St. Louis, then again last season in Philadelphia. He repeatedly says he felt responsible for Bradford in both places. In Minnesota, he was Bradfords most vocal advocate when the trade was being discussed. He got injured, and sometimes theres nothing you can do about that, he says. Along the way, hes taken some hits and matured as a pro. Not mentally tough? Thats the furthest from the truth when you talk about Sam. Hes tough as nails.I really think hes a different guy here, Boone says. I think hes more confident, more comfortable. I think hes not afraid to let it loose.Six weeks removed from losing Bridgewater for the season, and four weeks removed from losing Peterson, perhaps for the season, the trade for Bradford is viewed within the Vikings locker room as a message from GM Rick Spielman.It really showed the confidence they have in the team, Smith says. This isnt a rebuilding year. Its not, Oh, we were going to be really good, but now well just see what happens. It reinforced to us that the time is right now.Or, as Boone says: Sam came wrapped in gold.Its clear that the king of the eye roll wouldnt agree, and that the reconsideration of Sam Bradford will continue along its unemotional, monotonous path. The cosmic importance of football eludes him. He doesnt take himself too seriously, and he sincerely hopes nobody else does either. Hes been down that road before. He doesnt particularly like the view. Erik Kramer Jersey . "It was nerve-wracking, but we pulled through," said Collaros, who threw four touchdown passes to lead the Toronto Argonauts (8-4) to a 33-27 win over the Calgary Stampeders (9-3) in front of 28,781 fans at McMahon Stadium. Bill George Jersey . After dropping their final six games of December, the Wild opened the new calendar year with four consecutive wins. Following a loss to Colorado on Saturday, Minnesota rebounded the following night to blank Nashville 4-0, but then had the tables turned on them Tuesday. http://www.custombearsjersey.com/custom-george-musso-jersey-large-966t.html . Perhaps Carroll was so prepared for a break because he believes there is very little the Seattle Seahawks need heading into the off-season. "I dont see anything that we need to add. We just have to get better," Carroll said. Michael Joseph Jersey . Fred Couples, captain of the U.S. side, put it all into perspective. "We know whos in charge," he said. Reggie Phillips Jersey . The head of USA Boxing came out swinging Tuesday with an open letter to Tyson -- a former Olympic hopeful himself -- that accuses the former heavyweight champion of trying to poach fighters who might be candidates for the U. (STATS) -- Theres an intruder in the FCS national semifinals, but unseeded Youngstown State has proven it belongs.Top-seeded North Dakota State, second-seeded Eastern Washington and fourth-seeded James Madison -- all 12-1 conference champs -- have done their part to keep the 24-team bracket to form.The exception is the No. 3 seed, Jacksonville State, fell to Youngstown State last week, and the surging Penguins (11-3) kept the momentum going in the national quarterfinals this weekend.All four semifinalists have won an FCS title previously. North Dakota State will host James Madison Friday night and Youngstown State will go to Eastern Washington next Saturday.The two winners will meet in the national championship game Jan. 7 in Frisco, Texas.Heres a quarterfinal-round review:---=Saturday, Dec. 10No. 1 seed North Dakota State 36, No. 8 seed South Dakota State 10Story Line: The five-time defending FCS champion Bison scored the final 36 points after falling into their first double-digit deficit of the season. In rallying to their 22nd straight win in the FCS playoffs, they avenged their only defeat of the season.Game Ball: Bison quarterback Easton Stick usually limits the mistakes. Although he threw an interception near the South Dakota State goal line and had poor clock management near the end of the first half, the redshirt sophomore still produced for an offense that dominated the game clock. He had 271 yards of total offense, rushed for two touchdowns and threw for one.Key Stats: The Bisons ability to convert third downs (10 of 13) led to a decisive edge in time of possession (40 minutes, 55 seconds) and kept SDSUs triple threat of quarterback Taryn Christion, wide receiver Jake Wieneke and tight end Dallas Goedert from beating them. Christion managed only 155 passing yards and no touchdowns.The Takeaway: Coach Chris Klieman talked afterward about the resolve of his Missouri Valley Football Conference co-champion, which survived SDSUs early 10-0 lead and then dictated the game in a way the Bison so often do. They wont win the run game against semifinal-round foe James Madison in the same way they did against SDSU (302 yards to 37), but they are big enough up front to impose their will.Up Next: North Dakota State will host No. 4 seed James Madison in the semifinals. Their run of five straight national titles began with a 26-14 win over the Dukes in the 2011 second round.---=Youngstown State (11-3) 30, Wofford (10-4) 23, 2 OTsStory Line: The upstart from the Missouri Valley made it three straight wins in its first playoff appearance in 10 years, overcoming three missed field goals and various mistakes to win in the second overtime on Tevin McCasters 2-yard touchdown run.Game Ball: While McCaster scored the game-winner, Youngstown States running attack featured Jody Webbs 213 yards on 34 carries -- both career highs. The senior also had 118 yards on four kickoff returns, giving him 331 all-purpose yards.Key Stat: Woffords triple-option offense was one-dimensional, which gave the Penguins a big advantage in the passing game. Quarterback Hunter Wells threw for 173 yards and three touchdowns, while the Terriers two signal callers didnt have a completion in three attempts.The Takeaway: Coach Bo Pelinis squad had been on such a dominating roll that it was a positive to see it could survive and advance despite not playing one of its better games. The Penguins will need to rrun the ball to beat Eastern Washington in the semifinals, so it will be beneficial if Martin Ruiz can heal up over the next week.ddddddddddddUp Next: Red will be the optimum color when Youngstown State travels to No. 2 seed Eastern Washington for the FCS semifinals. The Penguins won four FCS national titles in the 1990s and EWU captured its lone title in 2010.---=No. 2 seed Eastern Washington 38, Richmond 0Story Line: Gage Gubrud threw for three touchdowns in the first half, and the Eagles often-maligned defense posted its first shutout since the 2009 regular season by forcing five turnovers and getting six sacks.Game Ball: Senior defensive end Samson Ebukam, in his 36th career start, tied for Eastern Washingtons team high with eight tackles and added two sacks, two other tackles for loss, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and an interception.Key Stat: Richmond had hoped to control the game against an Eagles defense that was allowing 200 rushing yards per game. But add in the sacks and the Spiders managed only 48 net rushing yards on 37 carries. Meanwhile, the Eagles carried the ball 33 times for 154 yards.The Takeaway: This years improvement of the Eagles defense reached a new level with their first shutout in 102 games. They were aggressive against Richmonds young offensive backfield. Coach Beau Baldwins Eagles, who won a share of their fourth Big Sky Conference title in five years, have surrendered only 113 points in their last seven games.Up Next: Eastern Washington will host Youngstown State in the FCS semifinals. The only previous meeting occurred in the same round of the 1997 playoffs, with YSU winning 25-14 in Cheney, Washington, on the way to its fourth national title of the decade.---=Friday, Dec. 9No. 4 seed James Madison 65, No. 5 seed Sam Houston State 7Story Line: The CAA Football champ reached the semifinals for the third time, dominating in all three phases of the game and silencing Sam Houston State record-setting quarterback Jeremiah Briscoe. Running backs Khalid Abdullah and Trai Sharp combined for 285 rushing yards and five touchdowns.Game Balls: The Dukes secondary was exceptional while keeping Briscoe (13 of 44, 143 yards) without a touchdown pass just six days after he set the FCS single-season record with his 57th scoring toss. Curtis Oliver and Raven Greene both had interceptions, and Oliver joined fello

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