By Nick Wagoner/Senior Writer


Tuesday in the NFL is the player’s respite, his opportunity to step away from the game for 24 hours before the week really gets going on Wednesday.


Unless, of course, you’re the quarterback in which case the chances for down time are few and far between. And if you’re a rookie quarterback, Tuesday might as well be Groundhog’s Day because it’s probably going to be pretty similar to every other day of the week.


Such is life for Sam Bradford as the Rams’ starting quarterback as he found himself spending plenty of his Tuesday at the Russell Training Center. Of course, there wasn’t much leisurely about the visit.


“He’s into backgammon, so we played a little backgammon,” coach Steve Spagnuolo said, laughing. “No, we sat and watched some tape. I tried to give him a little bit of the defensive side of it, what I think they might be doing or thinking, what I thought he could expect from…being a rookie quarterback in the first game, from a defensive standpoint.”


If ever there was a coach to give a rookie advice about what to look for and expect from an opposing defense, it’s Spagnuolo.


While it’s in the job description of defensive coordinators to make life difficult for all quarterbacks, it’s particularly fun when the quarterback on the other side is a rookie who has yet to see the speed and diversity of NFL defenses in a regular season game.


One reporter even asked Spagnuolo how “diabolical” he likes to get when he sees a young signal caller on the other side.


“I didn’t use that word,” Spagnuolo said. “I would have if I had thought of it, but that’s exactly what I was trying to convey to Sam, that I think the mindset of any defensive coordinator that’s going to face a rookie quarterback is going to make it as tough and confusing as he can. Usually that means not doing things that they’ve already seen on film and make the quarterback make adjustments on the sideline during the game. So we’ve certainly anticipated that.”


Indeed, there will be no bigger challenge for Bradford in his first career NFL start Sunday against Arizona than the exotic and multiple defensive looks and blitz packages that the Cardinals are sure to throw at him.
Arizona works out of a base 3-4 defense but will regularly move around, switch fronts and disguise blitzes so as to create confusion for opposing offenses.
Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett is known for his ability to push the pocket and safety Adrian Wilson has long been a thorn in the side of the Rams.


These are just a couple of examples of what Bradford will be dealing with when he steps on the field on Sunday.
“We’re taking a look at that right now,” Bradford said. “I think they do have a good defense. They do some things that we’re going to have to be aware of. We’re going to have to take a look at the tape this week and make sure when we step out on the field on Sunday, that we’re ready for everything they could throw at us, knowing that they haven’t showed everything in the preseason, too.”


Therein lies the rub. While Bradford and the Rams offense moved the ball well in the preseason, particularly in the final two contests and Bradford showed a knack for recognizing blitzes and getting the ball out quick, things change dramatically when the season starts.
Everybody plays at a faster speed and the actual scheme and game plan of the defense is far more detailed and – well for lack of a better word – diabolical.


Although Bradford is certain to see things he’s never seen before against the Cardinals, he also at least has some moments from the preseason that he can use as re-enforcement that he can handle just about anything thrown his way.


“It definitely helped,” Bradford said. “Especially the New England game, to come out and have success like that. Especially after struggling a little bit in the first two games, to come out and have a performance like that, it definitely helped my confidence.”


Spagnuolo only named Bradford the starter last Saturday so he’s only had a few days for it to soak in. But that doesn’t mean that Bradford isn’t excited about the opportunity placed before him.


The choice to start Bradford probably seemed easy on paper but it wasn’t until things filled in around him that things began to crystallize.


Now, Bradford finds himself eager to be living out his childhood dream on the first NFL Sunday of the year.


“Yeah, I’m extremely excited right now,” Bradford said. “Like you said, this is everything a kid dreams of, being able to start a game in the NFL. To be able to do it as a rookie week one…it’s extremely exciting.”


Believe it or not, Bradford says not much has changed since he was named the team’s starter. Perhaps because there was a sense of inevitability that came with the announcement but it has allowed him to stay focused on the task at hand and preparation for Arizona.

“I understand that being a starting quarterback in the NFL, it’s a big responsibility, and I have a lot to do this week,” Bradford said. “I have a lot of preparation, a lot of time to put in to make sure that I’m ready for this opportunity on Sunday.”


Rest assured, that work is certain to get done in the next couple of days as the Rams and Bradford prepare for the regular season opener. Not that he’s ever been anything but grounded since his arrival in St. Louis but Bradford is well aware of what needs to be done.


If nothing else, he’ll have Spagnuolo around to remind him just how difficult things can be on a rookie quarterback.


And for his part, Spagnuolo doesn’t want to do anything crazy or out of the ordinary to try to put too much on Bradford’s already full plate.


“He comes in, he met with (Quarterbacks Coach) Dick (Curl), he sat with me for an hour, and then you give him his time off,” Spagnuolo said. “But he’s on a normal schedule. They get a lot of film, quarterbacks, the whole quarterback group, but that’s no different than we did last year.”