James Bradberry practices during the Carolina Panthers' rookie minicamp earlier this month. (Courtesy Carolina Panthers)

NFL DRAFT DIARY | James Bradberry tackles his first minicamp: 'It was fun'

After months of preparation, Samford cornerback James Bradberry was selected in the second round of the NFL draft last month by the Carolina Panthers. Bradberry attended his first rookie camp with the Panthers in early May and will remain in Charlotte for OTAs later this month, before returning home to prep for his first training camp late this summer. Bradberry signed a nearly $4 million, four-year contract on May 9.

It was fun, it was exhausting.

First day I got there and my locker was over by the linebackers, so I was surrounded by … linebackers and they were joking with me. Usually, they put all the DBs together, so they were joking with me, especially Thomas Davis, A.J. Klein and Luke Kuechly.

Now my locker is near the DBs, because they released Brandon Boykin, so my locker is over there. It was kind of weird (being there), it was me, (rookies) Zack Sanchez (Oklahoma) and Darryl Worley (West Virginia), those are the guys I was hanging out with the most. You have to look past (enjoying the locker room, perks) because they are throwing so much at you, the playbook and all of that. Kind of hard to enjoy that because you have work to do.

The playbook is totally different from the piece of paper to when you’re on the field and people are coming at you full speed. When we were in the meeting room, I had it all down, but on the field, it was different. I got confused a couple of times, but nothing big.

I feel like I am a quick runner and that I showed them that. I feel like I could communicate. I am quiet off the field, but there is so much communication on the field in the Panthers defense because there is so much motion, that you have to call out the plays. I was doing a little of that (at Samford), but with the Panthers, sometimes the CBs come over and that kind of thing didn’t happen at Samford.

I’m becoming comfortable with (being verbal on the field). Sometimes, just because I’m new to it, I’m hesitant to call out things because I don’t want to be wrong. There is so much you have to think about. The offense motions so much … you have to think about what the offense might do post-snap. And you have to think about the rotations of the safety and they sometimes come over to help the DBs and you want the help. There are a lot of variables.

• • •

Bradberry visited the Panthers the day after being drafted, but the rookie camp was his first multi-day training experience with the team. During the two-day camp, he got his first taste of being physical at the NFL level and noticed a lot of other differences between colleges and the pros.

I would get up at about 7 and head over to the facility. I’m right down the street from the facility, so I can walk. There were meetings right after breakfast, then we would go to the field and do a walkthrough. At breakfast, there was bacon, turkey bacon, sausage, grits, eggs and fridges with water and Gatorade all over the place, plus jerky, turkey jerky, energy bars and protein bars.

At school you pretty much had to ask a dietician or nutritionist for a snack, but here you can eat whatever you want. When I would leave, I would fill my bag with Gatorade, water, jerky, turkey jerky and protein bars.

On Friday, we had two-a-day (practices) and we ate lunch and went back to meetings and then went outside and worked again. At lunch, I had steak and green beans. I don’t know if they have that all the time. You can get as much as you want.

I was hurting after the first day of minicamp. I have to focus on my backpedal and make sure I stay square. I need to focus on being more fluid on my backpedal and work on my speed on the backpedal. When I was in college, I didn’t necessarily have to be as fast in my backpedal … now, the guys are so fast, you have to be fast in backpedal because you don’t want to turn early.

I think coming in with two other corners in the same draft class, is a good thing. That way I have people I can lean on and if there is something that I don’t get, they might understand it. It’s a good thing that they drafted two other corners (Worley and Sanchez).

Asked what other kinds of perks he saw at the facility, Bradberry offered up a long list — and a lesson he’s already learned.

I got some flip flops, workout gear, sweatpants, a sweater, long-sleeve shirts, gloves, pretty much anything you need to be a football player.

I don’t really want to wear my stuff around because people start to look at you, so I am going to stop doing that. I went to wear some of the stuff when I went to go get some wings. People just come to you.

• • •

With his first rookie camp complete, Bradberry will remain in Charlotte for OTAs before returning home to Alabama for about a month before training camp begins.

I haven’t found an apartment yet, I’ll probably find one after training camp in August. My agent and my financial advisor both know Charlotte, so I am going to ask them to help me out with that, and the Panthers have help with that.

I’ll probably get a two-bedroom apartment because my mom wants to have a room when she comes up to visit and a roommate probably wouldn’t appreciate that.

Since I got drafted, my social media has really grown a lot, a lot more people tweet me now and I get a whole lot more likes on my photos on Instagram.

But I haven’t had anyone ask me for anything, really, except for maybe tickets in the future. That’s a reasonable thing, but nobody has asked me for money. I haven’t reached that pinnacle in life yet (laughs).

After OTAs, I will probably go back home and hang with my family and friends because I probably won’t have time to do that as much during the season.

Jill R. Dorson is a freelance writer based in San Diego.

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