It connects to perhaps the most well-known story in the history of the franchise in St. Louis. And though you probably know the tale, it bears repeating.
Trent Green was signed as a free agent to become St. Louis’ starting quarterback for the 1999 season. Green suffered a season-ending knee injury in the third preseason game on a hit by his former teammate, Rodney Harrison. Head coach Dick Vermeil famously proclaimed, “We will rally around Kurt Warner. And we will play good football.” And you surely know how the story ends.
Are there parallels to the quarterback situations of 1999 and now 15-years later in 2014? Sure. But if you ask Green, that doesn’t mean it’s a fair association.
“It’s really not much of a comparison, other than we both blew our knee out in the third preseason game,” Green said last week. “You have to remember, I was 29 years old. I was an eighth-round pick and had fought my way to become a starter.
Green saw the replay of the Bradford’s injury like many across the country did -- watching preseason highlights after all the day’s games had come to a close. Though he’d heard the optimism surrounding Bradford’s situation, Green noticed something that made him feel a little more pessimistic.
“I guess the thing that just kept coming back to me was the look on Sam’s face,” Green said. “Just his eyes and the way he looked like, ‘OK, something doesn’t feel right.’ And as an athlete, having been through that, I kind of knew that look.”
And when the former Rams quarterback heard the extent of Bradford’s injury, he was compelled to reach out -- and did so via Twitter.
Green said he knew that it’s a crazy time for Bradford, but wanted the quarterback to know that he was available.
“I said, when things calm down, I’d love to have the chance to talk to him -- if anything just to be a resource for him to bounce some stuff off of,” Green said. “Rehab can be a lonely thing to go through.”
“Everyone thinks it’s a physical thing -- and obviously it is, because football is a physical sport,” Green added of the rehab process. “But the mental part of it is challenging as anything.”
Green named three factors that make recovery difficult. The first is what he called, “Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.” It has to do with making sure you believe that you can fully recover, even though you’ve got to completely restart a training regimen.
“I’m sure he was leg pressing 300 or 400 pounds, maybe 500 pounds a week ago,” Green said. “So you go through that again where all of a sudden the mental part of it is, ok, now I’m back to square one with lifting three-pound weights.”
Another challenge any rehabbing player comes across is that the team moves on without him.
“Since you’ve been in grade school football, high school football, all the way on up, somebody gets hurt on the football field, hey, move up the drill,” Green said. “The same thing happens when you put him on IR, when you’re going to have a surgery -- things don’t stop. They’re not just going to postpone the season until you get back.”
The last factor Green called a difficulty was how a significant injury can force a player to think about the end of his career, and when that will be. The former quarterback said that players sometimes have a tendency to think of themselves as invincible.
“For me, mine was potentially career ending and I thought, OK am I ready for this to be over?” Green said. “Sam’s still a young guy. He’s got a long career ahead of him, but you start thinking about those things.”
The best way to combat those challenges is to have a strong support system. Green said he received plenty of encouragement while going through rehab in 1999, whether it was from his family, the coaching staff, training staff, or his teammates.
“The thing that was important to me and made me feel of value to the team, is the fact that the guys on the team who had been in the organization for a while would check up on me,” Green said. “They’d go through the training room and ask, ‘Hey, how are you doing? Keep it up, work hard, we can’t wait to have you back’ -- that kind of stuff. So having that kind of support goes a long way.”
Bradford does have a long road back to recovery, but his youth and drive make him -- like Green -- not only a candidate to come back from his injury, but also thrive as a quarterback in the NFL.