Through the first two seasons of his NFL career, Nigel Bradham, who delivered his share of big plays in college at Florida State, found it difficult to have the same kind of impact for the Buffalo Bills. The former fourth-round pick managed 108 tackles, only 66 of which were his own. No sacks. No interceptions. No forced fumbles. His playmaking ability needed a shot in the arm.
Bradham, to his credit, set out to change the path of his football career himself, and he's impressing the right people.
"I thought last year Nigel struggled at times with us," said head coach Doug Marrone. "I saw a change, more of a commitment from him when we came back (in the spring), which I give him a lot of credit for."
Bradham's renewed commitment could not have come at a better time for the Bills with LB Kiko Alonso still out with his recently repaired ACL, leaving the Bills without one of their projected starters at linebacker.
"Me and Kiko were like brothers," said Bradham. "We were together all the time … We watched film together, we learned a lot from each other … I hate to see him go down with an injury like that because I know how hard he works. When you get a guy that works hard like that it's kind of like he doesn't deserve to take an injury like that because he works day in and out."
Admittedly, Bradham's play in the initial years of his NFL career had a lot to do with himself and the choices he made. Last August, Bradham had a brush with the law that could have set his career on the wrong track. The charges he was facing were later dropped as long as he stayed out of trouble for six months.
"The one thing I was most inconsistent on was just being focused," said Bradham of his revitalized approach to the game. "I had a couple of off field issues last year that I learned from. Hanging around guys I shouldn't be hanging around and that was one of the main things for me to just get back, focus and just focus on me and not really worry about people outside trying to be fake friends and stuff like that."
With formal practices just getting underway, Bradham still has a long way to go before anything can be said for certain about his future. In the meantime, he has his coach's attention.
"He really had a solid OTA period and when the situation happened with Kiko and talking with Jim (Schwartz) and we've been talking about Nigel for a while because we've been pleased with his play," said Marrone. "We said we've got a guy here who has been playing really well and is a heck of an athlete and has done some good things and I'm excited about him having that opportunity. He's performing well right now."
With the addition of veteran linebackers Keith Rivers and Brandon Spikes and some up and coming youngsters, Bradham understands he has to maintain the intensity.
"I just want to come out here and get better every day and just work on everything I've got to work on to be a great linebacker in this league," Bradham said. "[I] just want to follow God's plan. I feel like that was a setback for me to get humble. I feel like I re-humbled myself and I came back strong and that's what I got to do: I just got to come back stronger every day and just work. I had an opportunity that I really could have lost something that I loved and worked my whole life for and that was the main thing … just getting back to the guy that I am."