Mercury News
Daniel Brown
***** safety Reggie Smith, who will get more playing time this Sunday, remembers when Sam Bradford was just a run-of-the-mill high school quarterback.
"He was just another guy," Smith recalled Wednesday.
Suffice to say, those days are long gone. Bradford visits Candlestick Park with the hopes of the St. Louis Rams on his shoulders. The No. 1 pick in April's draft, he has 11 touchdown passes as the only rookie quarterback to start all of his team's games this season.
Bradford is riding a streak of 94 consecutive attempts (over three games) without an interception.
Bradford had a tougher time back with Putnam City North (Oklahoma City). That's when Smith -- then playing for Santa Fe High in Edmond, said he intercepted Bradford "one or two times."
Bradford laughed as he confirmed the story.
"He actually did. As much I hate to admit that, I'll be honest," he said in a conference call with Bay Area reporters.
Smith and Bradford went on to develop a friendship -- and a mutual admiration -- as teammates at the University of Oklahoma. That's where Bradford blossomed from "just another guy" into Heisman Trophy winner.
In St. Louis, he has been stellar. Bradford joined Dan Marino (13 in 1983) as the only rookie quarterbacks to throw at least 10 touchdown passes by the end of October. On third downs this season, Bradford has a 101.2 passer rating and zero interceptions.
"I never would have thought he'd come this far, but he's a great player," Smith said. "All the props in the world. I love the guy."
While Bradford comes to town in a starring role, Smith is still trying to earn playing time in his third NFL season. He gets another chance this week. Coach Mike Singletary said Wednesday that Smith would be called upon to give rookie strong safety Taylor Mays a breather.
Mays plays on every special-teams unit, and defensive coordinator Greg Manusky and the ***** decided to back off on the rookie's workload.
"I've been told to give Taylor a little bit of rest," Reggie Smith said. "He's been running all defense and every special teams, so he's kind of tired out there. . . . So I'm going to try to come in at certain times so he can get a breather, so he's not over there huffing puffing like the past few games."
Bradford will keep an eye out for his old OU teammate -- and high-school nemesis. "I know Reggie really well. He's a great athlete and a great player," Bradford said.
The guy doesn't have the stats to be a recognizable threat but him knowing Bradford personally can get real ugly if he isn't careful.