PHOENIX – James Bradberry has no hard feelings.
Frankly, he shouldn't. As one of the Philadelphia Eagles' starting cornerbacks, Bradberry is preparing to face the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVII on Sunday. Including their two playoff victories, the Eagles have won 16 games this season, or six more than the Giants won in Bradberry's two years with the team. He would have been perfectly happy to stay on the northern end of the New Jersey Turnpike, but the necessity of creating breathing room under the salary cap led to his release on May 9. The Eagles signed Bradberry nine days later.
"I was looking at it from a business standpoint," Bradberry said here on Super Bowl Opening Night. "I knew the salary cap was what it was and where I fell on it. So, I knew either they were going to have to trade me or release me.
"It was a rough little stint there I had in New York, but I came away with a lot of great relationships. They've got a lot of great guys in that building over there – players, personnel. And I've still got a great relationship with those guys over there. So, it was a blessing."
Bradberry said he maintains regular contact with several of his former Giants teammates, notably safety Julian Love and defensive lineman Leonard Williams.
Bradberry joined the Giants as a free agent in 2020, after four years with the Carolina Panthers. In two seasons with the team, he missed only one game, vs. Cleveland on Dec. 20, 2020, when he was on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Bradberry was a steady defender who started 31 games and was a Pro Bowler in 2021, when he led the Giants with three interceptions that season.
This year, he started every game and combined with Darius Slay to give the Eagles one of the NFL's best cornerback tandems.
The Giants received a reminder of Bradberry's impressive skillset in their divisional playoff loss to the Eagles on Jan. 21 when the corner intercepted a Daniel Jones pass late in the first quarter.
Did the expertise he gathered in two seasons watching Jones in practice help him make that play?
"I wouldn't say my knowledge," the always-diplomatic Bradberry said. "Just my overall football helped me on that play."
Now he gets to use that experience in the Super Bowl. His first step toward getting here was being cut by the Giants.
"At the time, it wasn't the best thing," he said. "Being in this position now, it's a blessing in disguise. I'm grateful that it happened."
*The Eagles added defensive tackle depth when they signed Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh in mid-November. Neither had been with a team since becoming free agents in March.
Joseph played his first four seasons with the Giants after they selected him in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft. He had two tackles and a hit on Tom Brady in the Giants' Super Bowl XLVI victory against New England.
"Man, I was young," Joseph said about that game. "I just remember getting there. I remember going to the Super Bowl thinking that it was going to happen every year. Then it took 11 years to get the second one.
"Now that I'm older and have kids, I'm just taking it in. I'm looking at it differently. I want to be able to win the game, spend time with my kids. I want to be able to have moments just like that."
As in their Super Bowl XLII triumph four years earlier, the performance of the Giants' defensive line was critical in their 21-17 victory in February 2012. Justin Tuck sacked Brady twice and the Giants hit him eight times.
"I think that's the reason why we were having the success that we were having," Joseph said. "Football is taking 11 different individual guys and putting them together. And we did that so well in (the) 2011 (season)."
Joseph started 46 games in his last three years with the Giants and set a career high in 2012 with 4.0 sacks (a figure he tied in 2016). He left the Giants as a free agent in 2013 when he began six-year stint with the Minnesota Vikings. Joseph played for the Los Angeles Chargers in 2020-21.
"I feel good with how everything happened, I really do," Joseph said. "I couldn't ask for anything more or anything less. I got a chance to get healthy. I got a chance to have my first summer – one year without training camp. So, everything was new until I got a job this year. It was great to see and feel what retirement would feel like."
Right now, Joseph would prefer to keep playing.
"My goal was 10 (seasons), and now I'm at 13," Joseph said. "I'll make a real decision on whether I want to play or not, but my goal is 15 years. I just want to make sure that if I do it, everything is set up the way it needs to be set up for me."
*Miles Sanders never played for the Giants, but one of his close friends does. The Eagles' Pro Bowl running back and Saquon Barkley were teammates at Penn State in 2016-17. They have remained tight. Both backs were selected to the Pro Bowl this season. Sanders could not participate in the Pro Bowl Games because Philadelphia has a commitment in a bigger game this Sunday.
"I don't know how he feels about me making it to the Super Bowl before him, but I definitely got some bragging rights," Sanders said this week.
It certainly won't rupture their friendship.
"Me and Saquon's relationship is definitely pretty good," Sanders said. "Obviously, we went to school together. And the way that situation happened, it was Saquon's turn. So, I supported him. I sat back and watched and learned from the great running back that he is and took it all in, really. I'm proud of him right now for where he's at, really, as he is proud of me, too. When I first came into the league, we had a silent bet to who wins some awards. That's between us, but it's very good. We're competitive. We've been competitive since college."
Asked last month about Sanders, Barkley said, "I love Miles. I'm a big fan of his game. Obviously, we play the same position. We played with each other at Penn State. That's someone I always wanted to see have great years and have success."
In the 2022 season, Barkley finished fourth in the NFL with 1,312 yards. Sanders was fifth with 1,269. Barkley ran for 10 touchdowns, Sanders 11.
At a Super Bowl media session, Sanders was asked who he thinks are the NFL's top five running backs.
"I won't even include myself because I respect a lot of backs in this league," he said. "I'm going to go with my boy Saquon first. I'm going to go with (San Francisco 49ers) Christian McCaffery second. (New Orleans Saints) Alvin Kamara third. (Cleveland Browns) Nick Chubb fourth. And I got to go (Tennessee Titans) Derek Henry, too. But I'm going to throw one more in there. I'm a big, big (Packers) Aaron Jones fan."
In the two years they were teammates at Penn State, Barkley rushed for 2,229 yards and 25 touchdowns, while backup Sanders was limited to 414 yards and three scores. After Barkley left Happy Valley as the second overall choice in the 2018 NFL Draft, Sanders was selected 53rd a year later.
"My confidence never went down," Sanders said. "It was definitely difficult, but my confidence never went down. All I needed was a chance. And I got my chance. Made it the best I can after the second round here in Philly. And four years later, I'm in the Super Bowl. So, I can't complain."
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