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    For Bradford, it's time to play

    For Bradford, it's time to play
    BY JIM THOMAS | Posted: Sunday, August 1, 2010 12:00 am

    The numbers are legit. Quarterback Sam Bradford really can earn as much as $86 million over the next six years.

    So these aren't just the St. Louis Rams anymore. It's Sam's Club. A fitting name for a franchise that looks as if it's about to be owned by a member of the extended Wal-Mart family (Stan Kroenke).

    But now, Bradford starts to earn that money. On Saturday afternoon, about an hour after signing his contract, he began in earnest the task of living up to that mega-deal.

    Pressure? What pressure?

    "You just have to go play football," Bradford said after his first NFL training camp practice. "If you start worrying about all those other things, then it can really affect your performance. And I always put a lot of pressure on myself to succeed as it is.

    "So I don't think that's going to change. I have very high expectations for myself and this team this year. I think that's really what's going to drive me to work to succeed."

    On the first full-squad practice of camp, A.J. Feeley opened as the No. 1 quarterback, as expected. But there are millions of reasons why Bradford will be the Rams' starting quarterback. Such as the $50 million in guaranteed money in his contract. And the $78 million basic value of the contract. And even the $86 million maximum value of the deal if certain incentives are met.

    The task at hand is getting Bradford ready to play ASAP. He missed three practices total on Thursday and Friday while his deal was getting hammered out. What did he miss?

    "Well, a bunch of reps," coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "Probably getting his arm loosened up. And basically what he's doing over there right now, which is just timing with the wideouts."

    As Spagnuolo spoke, Bradford was getting in extra work throwing to a couple of receivers after practice.

    "But the one thing about how the league is structured right now is we get those OTAs and minicamps," Spagnuolo said. "So he's had most of what we did today. He'll get caught up."

    To a large degree, it's up to offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, quarterbacks coach Dick Curl and, of course, Bradford to get the No. 1 overall draft pick ready for the regular season.

    "He did such a good job in the spring, I'd like to see him be able to build on that," Shurmur said. "His challenge is to be ready to play Day One, and if that works out, great. If it takes a little bit longer, so be it."

    During the nearly six-week break between the end of the Rams' spring practice period and Saturday's start of camp, Bradford took some homework back to Oklahoma in the form of practice tapes, the playbook and notes he took during the spring practices.

    "Our players take quite a bit of notes," Shurmur said. "So a lot of what we do in installations, they kind of write in their own way and then they match it up with the tape."

    (The installation period in practice is when the offense — or defense — puts in plays, often at a walk-through tempo.) To stay physically sharp, Bradford said he threw a football every day in Norman in late June and in July. Usually to former Sooners tight end Jermaine Gresham, the first-round draft pick of the Cincinnati Bengals.

    "And if he couldn't be there, I would just grab either some freshman wide receivers at OU or some managers, just to make sure I had someone to throw to," Bradford said. "I felt like I threw it well today, and I think that's because I put in some good work over the past couple weeks."

    Shurmur said the coaching staff will evaluate everything from how Bradford calls plays to how he manages the huddle, to how he executes at the line of scrimmage, before deciding whether he's ready to play in the regular season.

    "I think the preseason's going to be really important to put him in, to see what happens, and see if he can respond to some things," Curl said. "He is coming off an injury, one that was tough. How is that going to hold up?

    "I hope everybody blitzes us early when he's in there. Let's find out if he can handle that. Because once he can handle some of the blitzes that'll come about, then we're going to be able to say, hey, OK, we've got a chance now. But I'll be disappointed if he doesn't (handle it) because he's such a great kid and he really works at it. It's really important to him."

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    Re: For Bradford, it's time to play

    Sam Bradford, QB -- St. Louis Rams.

    I have the feeling he will be ... just fine. May our coaches get him ready on time.

    "Just fine" as in successfully developing in the NFL, on top of his already innate talent. Go SAM! Surfice-to-Air-Missile.

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