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Packers think they found pass-rusher in fourth round

Posted May 10, 2014

Arizona State's Carl Bradford played through heavy heart

GREEN BAY—Stats aren’t everything, but it doesn’t hurt to have them, and Arizona State pass rusher Carl Bradford has them.

In his two years as a starter for the Sun Devils, Bradford recorded 20 sacks among 39 ½ tackles for loss, and he’ll get a first look as an outside linebacker in the Packers’ 3-4 scheme. Green Bay drafted him on Saturday in the fourth round, with the 121st overall pick.

“We feel fortunate he was there,” said Brian Gutekunst, the Packers director of college scouting. “A lot of times guys with that production don’t last that long.”

Adding in the numbers from his first season as a reserve in 2011, Bradford recorded 21 ½ sacks and 43 tackles for loss in his career. He peaked with 11 ½ sacks in 2012 and added 8 ½ more last season.

Most likely, the primary reason he was available on day three was his size. At 6-1, 250, he doesn’t have prototypical height and length for an NFL edge rusher, but Gutekunst said he makes up for it in other ways.

“He’s really smooth, a lot of twitch,” he said. “He’s so athletic on his feet. You have to be explosive when you have lack of length.

“He’s been an edge guy most of his career. He’s a pass rusher. That’s what he does best.”

He did so last season with a heavy heart, following the death of his father in the spring of 2013. On a family trip, Bradford’s dad died of a heart attack, in his son’s arms.

Bradford called that the most difficult thing he’s dealt with in his life, and he drew on his father’s memory for strength, courage and motivation on the field. He broke down in tears on Saturday after getting drafted, thinking about his dad and how proud he would be.

“I know he’s up in heaven, smiling down so proud of his young son,” Bradford said. “I played for him, I played through him. It’s a blessing I got this opportunity, and I pray he’s always here with me.”

Bradford will need to make a transition to standing up on the edge as opposed to playing with his hand in the dirt in a three-point stance, which is what he did primarily in college. But he said he’ll be perfectly comfortable with the change, and he’s been expecting it. He spoke with the Packers and other 3-4 teams at the combine.

“I think I prefer it better,” he said of playing from a two-point stance. “I can see the audibles and motions. It gives me a better jump on the game and what’s going on in the backfield, rather than having my face in the ground.”

More important than the stance to Bradford is preparation, when it comes to figuring out how to get to the quarterback.

“You have to know your opponent, study him, study those tackles, know what they’re going to do,” he said. “Always have a couple moves to beat them.”

He did, and he beat them plenty. His statistics say that.

“He had a variety of moves. He’s not just a skim-the-corner guy,” Gutekunst said. “He’s got some power.

“Pass rushers in this league are very, very hard to find. If you can find them, teams that win in this league usually have them.”

Complete coverage: Meet the Draft Class

 
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