James Bradberry was raised in Alabama, where he attended Samford University of the Southern Conference. He played his first four NFL seasons in Charlotte, the USA’s 22nd-largest metropolitan area.
This week, Bradberry, a lockdown cornerback, officially joined the Giants and he is eager to conquer the big city, on and off the field.
Giants general manager Dave Gettleman held the same position with Carolina when he selected Bradberry in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
“I know what type of organization Mr. Gettleman is trying to put together with the Giants, and I wanted to be a part of that,” Bradberry told Giants.com today. “Talking to some of the players on the team, they had nothing but good things to say about it.”
Those players included former Carolina teammates David Mayo and Rashaan Gaulden, and Chad Slade, an offseason workout partner in Birmingham.
Bradberry said the presence of Gettleman – who spoke to Bradberry’s agent, not the player – was not a deal-maker but did provide some security.
“I don’t feel like he was a big factor, who necessarily the G.M. was,” he said. “But the fact that I knew him, I’m familiar with him, it kind of gave me a sense of comfort going over there.”
Bradberry became the Giants’ oldest and most experienced cornerback the instant he signed his contract. Though naturally quiet and reserved, he is perfectly comfortable being a leader for the team’s young corners, including DeAndre Baker, Sam Beal and Corey Ballentine.
“That’s what I’m here for,” said Bradberry, who is currently training in Charlotte while all NFL training facilities remain closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. “That’s why I’m here, they wanted to bring my knowledge in and that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to try to correct as many wrongs as I see.
“I feel like leadership can come in different forms. It doesn’t always have to be a vocal leader. It can be a person that leads by his actions. I’m also a one-on-one kind of guy. When I go to coach them up, I don’t try to call someone out or nothing like that. I’m more of a personable guy.”
Bradberry started every game in which he played with the Panthers (60 regular season and one postseason). He missed just four games in four years and only one in the three seasons from 2017-19. His career totals include 268 tackles (229 solo), eight interceptions that he returned for 53 yards, 55 passes defensed, 3.0 sacks, seven tackles for loss and one forced fumble.
But those numbers provide only a limited view of Bradberry’s skill and success. The NFC South is teeming with great receivers – Julio Jones in Atlanta, Michael Thomas in New Orleans, Mike Evans in Tampa Bay. The Panthers routinely assigned Bradberry to cover their opponents’ best wideout.
“I thought Julio Jones was the best receiver, but all of those guys are elite,” Bradberry said. “Michael Thomas, Mike Evans are not too far behind.”
No one will completely shut down receivers of that caliber, but Bradberry challenged them on every play and forced them to work for each catch.
“It’s an honor for coaches and employers to ask me to go against the top receivers,” Bradberry said. “It just says that they have respect for my game and have the ultimate confidence in myself and my ability.”
Bradberry said he tries to “devote at least an hour, hour and a half a day to watching film outside of the locker room during the season.” The knowledge he gains from that study and his meticulous practice habits help Bradberry compete against those top receivers. So does an unshakeable confidence and responding to his coaches’ directives.
“I try to keep my technique and fundamentals the same, no matter who I’m playing against,” Bradberry said. “But as far as how I apply those fundamentals and techniques, it might change based upon the receiver.”
Some of the NFL’s most entertaining verbal sparring is the banter between wide receivers and defensive backs. But Bradberry and his marquee opponents largely refrain from such conversations.
“I might say something if he says something to me,” he said. “But for the most part, in the past few years, we haven’t done too much trash talking.”
Bradberry’s only experience in the New York/New Jersey area is from a brief stay here last year to do an interview. But he is excited to become a resident of this region.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “What they (the Giants) had to offer (is) endless opportunities off the field. It’s a bigger city, there are a lot more opportunities. I really want to go to a basketball game at Madison Square Garden. I just want to go around and inhale the history of New York and everything that comes with it. The air, the food, the culture, all of it.”
No one can be certain when that will be, but both sides will be pleased when it happens.