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Bradford starts Camp No. 5 sound of knee and mind
• By Jim Thomas
Training camp No. 5 for Sam Bradford began Friday with ...
• A parking spot closer to the players’ entrance at Rams Park. (The longer you’ve been in the league, the closer you park to the door — a real bonus when the cold weather hits.)
• No issues with his knee during the opening practice of training camp.
• And the usual questions concerning his future and the make-or-break nature of the season.
First the knee.
“My knee feels really good,” said Bradford, who wore a brace Friday. “It feels better than when we finished OTAs. And I finished those last two OTAs pretty strong.
“Talking to Coach (Jeff Fisher) and Reg (head athletic trainer Reggie Scott), they feel good about having no limits. If it starts to get a little sore and we feel like we need to pull back, we can always do that. But out of the gate I’m gonna try to do everything.”
Bradford added that “there hasn’t been a point when we’ve had to pull back” throughout the rehab process.
The Rams’ defense sent pass-rushers at Bradford routinely on Friday, although of course contact with the quarterback is forbidden in practice. But he said he never consciously thought about the knee on the field Friday.
“It might be a little different the first time we step on the field for a preseason game or a regular-season game — the bullets are live,” he continued. “But at this point, I haven’t noticed anything.”
As for the old make-it-or-break-it question, Bradford seemed almost amused when the topic came up.
“I don’t really pay attention to that,” Bradford said. “But I think that question’s probably been asked every year since I’ve been here. So I mean, every year is a make-it-or-break-it year according to someone.
“I think everyone in our locker room feels good about where we’re at right now — and where this football team’s going. I think we have a great chance to be really good, and we’re just worried about coming out here right now in camp and getting better every day.”
Last week, before the Rams reported to camp, former Seattle fullback Michael Robinson provided more fodder than usual for the Bradford-bashers when he said on ESPN’s “First Take” that Bradford was “a little soft.”
“I haven’t heard about that,” Bradford said. “But whatever he said, everyone’s entitled to their opinion. Whether it was good or bad, it’s really not gonna change what’s going on around here for us.”
For those who question Bradford’s toughness, Robinson included, a couple of things come to mind.
• In 2011, when he had continuing problems with a severe high ankle sprain, Bradford was told if he continued to play on the ankle, it might deteriorate to the point where he needed surgery. Bradford’s response was as long as he didn’t need surgery right then and there he wanted to keep playing.
• Last season, just moments after he went down with his knee injury in Game 7 at Carolina, Bradford told team medical officials that he wanted to put on a knee brace and continue playing. That “request” obviously was denied.
“Sam is a tough player because you see what he can do (after) the injury that he had,” teammate Rodger Saffold said. “He’s come out here earlier than he needs to, and he’s come out here healthier, stronger, and faster. And everybody can see it, through everything that you (media) guys can’t see. But at the end of the day, he doesn’t need to be tough because we’re gonna do what we need to do.”
In other words, protect him.
Earlier this week, Bradford had what probably should be termed a surprising performance in the mandatory conditioning tests that each player must take before training camp.
“We all ran with him a few days ago, and he came out and he blew that conditioning test open,” linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar said. “So to see him do that, and to see him out here (Friday) throwing the ball and throwing some accurate balls — some good balls — it’s just a relief to know that you’ve got the General on offense back.”
Dunbar said Bradford’s performance in the conditioning drills was good to the point where he embarrassed a few teammates.
“He did,” Dunbar said. “Guys that you would think would do a lot better (than Bradford). I can’t tell you specifics, but Sam ran well.”
Before arriving at Rams Park for camp, Bradford held a scaled-down version of his usual pre-camp get-together with Rams receivers in his hometown of Norman, Okla. This year’s attendees were wide receivers Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and Brian Quick; tight end Lance Kendricks; and fullback/tight end Cory Harkey. As usual, Bradford footed the bill for the group in terms of transportation, lodging and meals.
“I mean, we only have four, four-and-a-half weeks (off), so for them to take a couple days and come down there — it means a lot to me and I’m happy to pick the tab up,” Bradford said. “I think any time you spend together helps. ... Just talking plays, talking ball, making sure that it’s still fresh in everyone’s mind.”
Bradford normally brings players to Norman in conjunction with a youth camp he puts on. But he didn’t have a youth camp this summer, and he didn’t have another quarterback to help throw to the receivers.
“So I kept it a little smaller this year,” he said. “Some of the younger guys and guys that I felt like I needed to work with. But they came to Norman for a few days and we had a great session and spent some time together off the field, just hanging out.”
Bradford returns to field after injury
ST. LOUIS — Jeff Fisher didn’t name names, but the Rams coach said Friday that quarterback Sam Bradford, who is coming off a season-ending ACL injury, finished ahead of some of his teammates during the squad’s conditioning test before the start of training camp.
That may be the most positive sign so for the St. Louis quarterback, who participated in some of the team’s OTA sessions but is now fully cleared to go at the beginning of his fifth NFL training camp.
“We’re just going to go and if we have to back down we’ll back down, but at this point he finished the conditioning test,” Fisher said. “I won’t mention the names of the people that crossed the line after him but he did well. He’s worked really hard.”
Bradford met with the media Friday and said he feels great.
“My knee feels really good,” he said. “It feels better than when we finished OTAs. I finished those last two OTAs pretty strong. It feels even better now. In talking to Coach (Fisher) and (head athletic trainer) Reggie (Scott), they feel good about having no limits. If it starts to get a little sore and we feel like we need to pull back we can always do that. Out of the gate I’m going to try and do everything.”
The Rams were glad to have No. 8 back out there on Friday afternoon.
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft was off to the best start of his career when he injured his knee late in the St. Louis’s seventh game, at Carolina. The Rams were 3-4 in his starts in 2013, and are 18-30-1 in his starts throughout his career, but Bradford was showing signs of the kind of improvement the team needed from the Heisman Trophy winner.
After completing 59.5 percent of his passes for 3,702 yards, 21 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and an 82.6 passer rating in 2012, Bradford’s numbers improved to 60.7 completion rate, 14 touchdowns vs. four interceptions and a 90.9 passer rating in 2013.
The Rams were just gaining traction offensively with the rushing attack when Bradford went down with his injury against the Panthers.
In his final three starts, he completed 65 percent of his passes (52 of 80) for 594 yards, seven touchdowns against one interception, and a passer rating of 111.1. St. Louis won two of those three games.
Bradford was asked Friday if he feels pressure to perform this season.
“I don’t really pay attention to that,” he said. “I think that question’s probably been asked every year since I’ve been here. Every year is a ‘make it or break it’ year according to someone. I think everyone in our locker room feels really good about where we’re at right now and where this football team is going. I think we have a great chance to be really good. We’re just worried about coming out here right now at camp and getting better every day.”
The quarterback was admittedly rusty during the team’s first full-squad practice of training camp. Of course that is to be expected early in training camp, especially for a player coming off a major injury.
Bradford said he is trying to get back to the rhythm he had a year ago, before he got hurt and his season was over in late October. Friday’s practice represented a good first step toward that.
“There’s no doubt that there is still a little rust that needs to come off,” he said. “I just haven’t been out there. … I haven’t played a lot of football since the injury. Just tightening up all the small details with our guys. Making sure we use this time to get on the same page as far as conversions, routes, everything. Just pushing the unit to get better as a whole every day.”
His teammates were happy to have him back.
“He’s looked great,” linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar said. “We all ran with him a few days ago and he came out and he blew that conditioning test open. To see him do that and to see him out here throwing the ball and throwing some accurate balls, throwing some good balls, it’s just a relief to know that you’ve got the general on offense back.”
As for that conditioning test run, Dunbar isn’t naming names either.
“Guys that you would think would do a lot better. How does that sound?” Dunbar said. “I can’t tell you specifics, but Sam ran well and it looked really good to see him out there doing that.”
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