Sam's the Man in St. Louis
The rookie quarterback has the Rams on the move.
By: Mitch Light | 10/6/10, 4:36 PM EDT
By Ralph Vacchiano
It was a risk when the St. Louis Rams drafted Sam Bradford, and they knew it. He had a surgically repaired shoulder that scared some in the NFL. It didn’t survive his collegiate career. And now he was going to be a sitting duck for fiery NFL defenders on a bad team, behind a bad offensive line.
Yet four games into his rookie season, Bradford has taken the hits — 10 sacks so far — and hasn’t shown any sign that he’s bothered at all. He’s already doubled the Rams’ win total from a year ago; the team’s 2–2 record is good for a first-place tie at the quarter pole of the season.
Hard as it is to believe, the playoffs don’t seem out of reach at all.
“I just think that the players that are playing with him are confident in him,” Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo told reporters in St. Louis this week. “And I think that gets him a little bit more confident. He’s a great competitor, and that filters through the whole offense.”
There was no doubt coming out of Oklahoma that Bradford was talented. He was the consensus choice for the No. 1 overall pick and, some believed, the only true franchise quarterback in the entire 2009 draft. But that’s not always a guarantee of success. For every Peyton Manning at the top of the draft there’s a JaMarcus Russell.
And for many first-round quarterbacks — even those that get picked No. 1 overall — it takes years to find their NFL groove.
Maybe that will eventually be the case for Bradford, too, but he certainly seems to have hit something of a groove early. He’s completed 58.2 percent of his passes (92-of-158) for 944 yards with six touchdowns and six interceptions — numbers that may not be great, but they aren’t bad at all.
And Spagnuolo hadn’t exactly been protecting him either. Bradford threw 55 times in his first NFL game — completing 32 with a touchdown and three interceptions. He then settled down somewhat and averaged 34 attempts per game in his last three starts, completing 58.3 percent of those throws with five touchdowns and three interceptions.
The Rams, the worst team in the NFL for much of the last three seasons, lost their first two games by a total of six points. Then they won their next two — at home over the Washington Redskins and the Seattle Seahawks — by a total of 31.
Spagnuolo knew Bradford was good. But he couldn’t possibly have expected such wonderful early returns.
“I don’t think any of us ever know until you get into a real, live regular-season game,” he said. “We certainly all saw hints of it in the preseason. And we were hopeful that when the speed of the game got jacked up in the regular season he’d speed up with it.
“And he has.”
The only question about Bradford now is: How long will this last? Is he the real deal and a quarterback capable of leading the lowly Rams to respectability — or even better, to the playoffs in his rookie season? And even if he is, will his shoulder hold up when he’s on his way to a 40-sack season?
“To be honest, I feel very fortunate right now,” Bradford said. “I really haven’t gotten beat up. My body feels great. Other than a couple of bumps and bruises there’s really nothing out of the ordinary that’s sore.”
It’s early, of course. But for now, there’s no reason for the city of St. Louis to worry. After three miserable seasons they might as well enjoy the performance as long as it lasts — no matter how long it actually does.
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