Bradford is under pressure to perform
Bradford is under pressure to perform
BY BILL COATS
Posted: Friday, August 20, 2010 12:05 am
Ask Rams quarterback Sam Bradford about those who refer to him as the "face of the franchise," and watch the No. 1 overall draft pick bristle.
"I think that's ridiculous," the rookie from Oklahoma said. "I don't think one person is any face of the franchise. It takes 11 guys on offense, 11 guys on defense and however many guys you have playing special teams to win a football game. That's how I look at it.
"And I wish more people would look at it like that."
A noble sentiment, to be sure. But there's one reason that a parade of national writers, unseen since the days of the "Greatest Show on Turf," have marched through Rams Park the past few weeks.
That would be Sam Bradford, he of the six-year, $78 million contract — the richest deal for a rookie in NFL history.
Fellow quarterback Keith Null, who arrived last year as a sixth-round draftee from tiny West Texas A&M, marvels at the added pressure that is heaped on Bradford. Learning to become an NFL quarterback is challenge enough, Null emphasized.
"It's a very difficult position on the field. You've got to run things out there and be calm, have your head on straight," Null said. "I'm sure it's easier, not really anybody knowing who I was when I came in and ... not having as many expectations as he has on him. But I think he can handle it."
Those expectations can pile up, explained defensive end Chris Long, the No. 2 overall draft selection in 2008.
"There's a lot of pressure involved, because if you're a selfless guy, a guy who cares more about them than yourself, you want to come out here and perform for your teammates," Long said. "You don't care about the paycheck. I think Sam's that type of guy.
"The key is respecting the veterans, and he did that from the first day. That way, people give him an opportunity to work and learn, and then they respect him back."
The Rams organization mapped out a two-pronged plan to help keep Bradford's feet on the ground and the demands on his time to a manageable minimum.
First, it made the decision not to build a marketing campaign around him.
"We want him to become acclimated to the life of being an NFL player, focus on being in training camp, focus on being a better player, a better teammate, and really have all of his attention be on the field," said Kevin Demoff, the club's vice president of football operations. "I think his name, the buzz, the recognition, it's all organic; we don't need to do anything to help it. And we don't want to take advantage of him."
Second, the public relations department has kept the interviews spread out so that Bradford isn't so busy that he becomes distracted. "We try not to overload Sam," coach Steve Spagnuolo said.
"The Rams have handled it great," Bradford said. "I've really never had more than one or two interviews a day."
Spagnuolo stressed that Bradford has "a lot going on. He's going through a rookie training camp, he's trying to learn a position that's challenging mentally, and part of this business is serving the media and serving the fans. So he has to do that. But he's handled it well."
Bradford realizes his obligation to the media and the fans — he signs autographs most days after practice. He chooses to regard his time with reporters as a respite in the humdrum of training camp.
"We're here from 7 in the morning till 8 at night," he said. "So every now and then if ... you can break away from the meeting room for 10 or 15 minutes to talk to someone, sometimes that helps just break up your day."
As quarterback of one of the most storied college programs, Bradford got a taste of the demands on his time at Oklahoma. But it's nothing like the NFL, he said.
So maybe at times he wishes he were just another guy trying to make a living playing football?
"Ummm ... every now and then you think that," Bradford conceded. "But there's no way I'd trade the position I'm in right now for just being a normal person."
Just don't call him the "face of the franchise." Not yet, anyway.
"There will be plenty of time over his career to work in the off-the-field" hype, Demoff said. "We want him to break in naturally, get a handle on it. And when he's ready for more, he'll tell us."
Re: Bradford is under pressure to perform
An NFL rookie under pressure...go figure.
I DO think the Rams have handled Sam's situation well....downplaying an "urgent" need to get him on the field while still acknowledging his progression is more than anticipated.