Focus on: Allen Bradford

Posted Aug 3, 2013

Looking who’s making plays at middle linebacker for the Seahawks: It’s Allen Bradford, who wanted to play linebacker at USC, where Pete Carroll had him playing tailback.

When Allen Bradford saw the ball on the ground, his initial reaction was “Look what I found” – not “Look what I did.”

The play – a fumbled center exchange – happened in the mock game that was part of the Seahawks’ training camp practice on Friday. It also was just the latest indication that Bradford the one-time running back is getting comfortable with his return to the position he always wanted to play – linebacker; and in this instance middle linebacker with the No. 1 defense, because Bradford was subbing for sore-shouldered starter Bobby Wagner.

“I feel like I should be a linebacker,” Bradford said after the rain-soaked practice. “I want to be one of the best, and I just want to keep striving, just keep improving every day. Because coach Carroll always says, ‘Either you’re getting better or you’re getting worse.’ ”

That would be Pete Carroll, the Seahawks’ fourth-year coach who recruited the 5-foot-11, 235-pound Bradford at USC, where he averaged 5.9 yards on 267 carries and scored 16 touchdowns in 52 games for the Trojans. And never did play linebacker.

“I came in as a No. 1 linebacker, but then they moved me to running back because one of our running backs got hurt,” Bradford said. “So I always wanted to play linebacker.”

Offered Carroll, “We recruited him to go on either side. We started him the first day, he was on defense. I always wanted him to be the tailback because he was such a brut. He always wanted to play defense.”

Bradford and Carroll were reunited in 2011 when the Seahawks claimed Bradford after he was waived by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who selected him in the sixth round of the NFL Draft that year – as a running back. He has spent most of the past two seasons on the practice squad, playing running back and linebacker against the Seahawks’ defense and offense.

And what has that dual-role experience been like? “Tiring,” Bradford said with a smile. “It was tiring, but I knew it was something I had to do. It was a hard role, but whatever I had to do I was willing to do to make the team.”

This camp, Bradford is being allowed to focus on one position, at a position where the Seahawks are looking for depth behind Wagner, last year’s leading tackler as a rookie; K.J. Wright, who was second on the team in tackles as the strong-side linebacker last season but is now playing the weak side; and whoever wins Wright’s old job on the weak side – where Malcolm Smith is now working with the No. 1 defense.

“It’s just a different experience for me,” Bradford said of being at linebacker fulltime and also getting the opportunity to step into the middle of the No. 1 defense. “Especially from last year, or the year before.”

Now Bradford feels like one of the guys on defense, because the other guys on defense are making him feel that way.

“Those guys out there make you feel comfortable,” he said. “Earl (Thomas, the All-Pro free safety) and Kam (Chancellor, the Pro Bowl-caliber strong safety) and K.J., they’re talking to me and it’s real cool to play with the 1’s.”

And to play the position he always wanted to play.

“It’s been a developmental process for two years,” Bradford said. “I’m glad those guys were real patient with me because there probably aren’t a lot of teams in the NFL that would let you make that transition and believe in you and stick with you.

“I praise those guys for letting me do that.”

Friday, Carroll praised Bradford for the job he is doing.

“I know we played really good run defense today, and Allen was in the middle of it all,” Carroll said. “This is a really big next couple of weeks for Allen. He’s made a great impression, been very physical on the practice field.

“It’s a really important step for him. He’s made a big transition. It’s taken him a long time to get here. So this preseason is going to be really crucial for him.”

Starting with Thursday night’s preseason opener in San Diego against the Chargers.