A lot of the buzz about the Indianapolis Colts this preseason has circulated around the improvement (or possibly lack thereof) in the running game. The biggest bulls-eye has been reserved for Trent Richardson, given the perceived cost of adding him to the roster and the expectations set up when he entered the NFL Draft. Vick Ballard was part of that same draft, selected in the fifth round, while Richardson was No. 3 overall. Ballard showed promise as a rookie, but he missed most of last season (and likely all of this season) with injury trouble. If not for Ballard’s situation, Richardson would probably be in Cleveland dodging questions about Johnny Manziel and Brian Hoyer right now.
Lost in the running back scuffle is Ahmad Bradshaw, 28-year-old former New York Giant with two Super Bowl Rings to his credit. He even scored the winning touchdown in that second Super Bowl, the one in Indianapolis. He faded from view after suffering a scary neck injury last season (the second of his career) during the Week 3 game against the San Francisco 49ers. That was right after Ballard’s first injury and right after Richardson joined the team. Watching Bradshaw play, you got the impression he took Richardson’s acquisition personally. He was playing on a one-year contract and trying to prove that, even after seven years in the league, he could still be the guy. Before his injury, he ran through the 49ers’ defense for 95 yards like it was easy.
The three-game sample last season was enough to convince the Colts to bring him back for another go. Thus far in 2014, Bradshaw has been wearing a red “no contact” jersey like Andrew Luck‘s. In light of the injury troubles the team has faced the past few seasons, coach Chuck Pagano has been pretty liberal with those red jerseys, like it’s an Oprah’s Favorite Things episode.
This week Bradshaw’s red jersey was removed, and he’s expected to play on Saturday in prime time against the New Orleans Saints. It’s a shame he wasn’t ready to go against the Giants last weekend; he and Hakeem Nicks might have doubled up against their former team and put on an even better show.
But what can we expect from Bradshaw? He’s had two neck injuries. He’s coming off a delicate surgery and recovery process. He hasn’t taken a hit in almost a calendar year. But I think we should look for flashes of the same Bradshaw we saw against the 49ers — the one who took doubt personally. He’s been a little forgotten this offseason, and that might have been the best thing that could have happened to him.