On Monday night, Ahmad Bradshaw will return to MetLife Stadium in New York, only this time it will be as a member of the Indianapolis Colts. The 8-year veteran running back had previously spent his first 6 seasons in the NFL with the New York Giants, helping his former team win 2 Super Bowls (XLII and XLVI) as a key component for Eli Manning and the Giants’ offense.
Originally a 7th round pick of the New York Giants out of Marshall in 2007, Bradshaw rushed for over 1,000+ yards in 2 of his 6 seasons with the Giants, largely featured as “the lightning” to former teammate, Brandon Jacobs‘ “thunder“, as part of a highly regarded running back platoon.
For Bradshaw, he’s already had this match-up circled on his calendar for quite some time:
"“I’ve looked forward to it all year to be able to go back to New York and play,” said Bradshaw, who has played one preseason game at MetLife in each of the past two seasons. “But like I said, it’s another opponent. As long as we can stay focused this week and prepare right, I think we’ll be fine.”"
Still, one can’t help but wonder if the always running “angry” Ahmad Bradshaw, may be even angrier come Monday night. It’s hard to forget for Bradshaw, as a player that was so instrumental to much of the Giants’ recent success to be then unceremoniously released by his former team in February of 2013. Bradshaw has probably buried the hatchet for the most part, but some old feelings simply die hard.
He’ll likely run much like he always does, with a clear chip on his shoulder…while leaving fans wondering whether each carry is his last, as he runs with sheer determination and grit. Playing with the raw emotion and toughness that would make even football founder, Walter Camp proud.
To be fair, the New York Giants’ management and coaching staff had nothing but positives to say about Bradshaw upon his release in February of 2013:
"“Pound for pound, Bradshaw is one of the toughest football players that I’ve been around,” [New York Giants] general manager Jerry Reese said in a statement released by the team. “Ahmad played football like Giants football should be played.”“Ahmad Bradshaw was drafted 250th in a class of 255 and to excel and to perform the way that he has, and to accomplish what he has, is a great tribute to him,” [New York Giants head coach] Tom Coughlin said in a statement of the team’s seventh-round pick in 2007. “He is not only an exceptional football player, but he is the epitome of line up and play. Regardless of the circumstances, he’s going to give you everything he’s got. If you give the ball to him, he’s going to get every inch of what is there — and sometimes when it’s not blocked, he still gets it.”"
Oct 9, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Indianapolis Colts running back Ahmad Bradshaw (44) celebrates after scoring on a 5-yard touchdown pass against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Yet, if Bradshaw was such a consummate pro, why did the Giants get rid of him in the first place? The team has struggled to find a long-term replacement for him at running back since his release.
His planned successor, 2012 first round pick David Wilson, a running back out of Virginia Tech, has now retired because of a career-ending neck injury after two injury plagued seasons. His old team has jostled running backs like Andre Brown, Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams, Peyton Hillis, and even brought back Brandon Jacobs in and out of the lineup in the past 2 seasons as it’s searched for answers. Mostly in vain.
Bradshaw’s blood pressure is probably boiling.
For the Indianapolis Colts, Bradshaw’s release was a clear blessing in disguise, as they signed him in the 2013 offseason. After being placed on season-ending injured reserve in Week 4 of 2013 with the Colts, he’s returned to become the team’s best running back this season, as he has 76 carries for 371 rushing yards (4.9 ypc) and 2 touchdowns. Most impressive; however, are his 6 receiving touchdowns, as he’s one of QB Andrew Luck‘s clear go-to guys in the red zone.
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Not only does he run and catch, but he also blocks exceptionally well. According to the advanced statistics provided by ProFootballFocus (PFF), Ahmad Bradshaw is 2nd in pass blocking efficiency at +96.5 among all NFL running backs, only behind the Ravens’ Justin Forsett at +97.1.
Bradshaw is simply a complete running back, which is why he’s currently graded as the 3rd best running back overall according to PFF at +8.1. Only Le’Veon Bell and Matt Forte are rated higher, both of whom are having great seasons as well.
For a player making a meer $855K on a 1-year “prove” it, Monday night’s game will provide a national spotlight for a veteran running back looking to prove that he still has it in front of both his old team that discarded him and other league-wide executives. In fact, it never left him.
There’s simply a lot of reasons to be angry about for Ahmad Bradshaw.
Oct 5, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts running back Ahmad Bradshaw (44) is tackled by Baltimore Ravens linebacker Daryl Smith (51) at Lucas Oil Stadium. Indianapolis defeats Baltimore 28-13. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports