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Raiders to test Rams' rookie Bradford ..
Vittorio Tafur, Chronicle Staff Writer
San Francisco Chronicle September 18, 2010 04:00 AM
A rookie quarterback on a losing team making his first NFL road start.
What, did the Raiders find an empty bottle on the beach and make a wish? A sacrificial Ram like Sam Bradford showing up Sunday seems to be too good to be true for an Oakland team coming off an embarrassing 38-13 season-opening loss at Tennessee.
"Any time you get a rookie ... you definitely want to keep pressuring them and make them make hard decisions," linebacker Kamerion Wimbley said. "You want to try to force them to make mistakes."
And Bradford made plenty of mistakes - he threw three interceptions - last week in an 17-13 loss to Arizona. But he showed a lot of poise and confidence, completing 32 of 55 passes - both records for an NFL debut - for 253 yards.
"When we get down to the red zone or the fringe area, we've got to find a way to get touchdowns and not field goals," Bradford said. "But I thought we moved the ball fairly well, and I think we feel fairly confident going into this Sunday."
The No. 1 overall draft pick out of Oklahoma displayed excellent arm strength, accuracy and pocket maneuverability throughout the preseason.
"We're not taking him lightly at all," Oakland cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said. "There are no exceptions just because he's a rookie. He's shown us enough on film to show us he can make all the throws and make good decisions."
Asomugha might be matched up with Mark Clayton, who came in off the street a week ago (acquired from Baltimore) and caught 10 passes. (Yes, that's the same number Raiders 2009 first-rounder Darrius Heyward-Bey has in his career).
Clayton said that he was surprised at the placement of some of Bradford's passes, especially when the quarterback was on the move.
"There were short-yardage situations where he was able to find little holes and be very precise and squeeze balls in," Clayton said. "He's special, he is. As long as offensively we protect him ... we're going to be really good."
While the Cardinals blitzed Bradford 25 times, the Raiders rely on their front four for pressure.
"They're a very good defense, totally different scheme," Bradford said. "They're going to challenge us. They're going to get in our face, they're going to play a lot of man coverage. Obviously, Nnamdi is one of the best corners in the league, so we have to be very careful in the way we plan to attack them. But if they do come up and play man, we have to be able to beat their coverage."
And Bradford is not going to let the three interceptions slow him down. He knows he has to make plays Sunday for the Rams to win for the second time in 28 games.
"I think you have to cut it loose," Bradford said. "I think the minute that you go out there and you start thinking about not turning the ball over, you really put your offense in a tough position. I think you stop looking downfield, you start looking for easy completions and then when you have to ... you're more likely to force it."
Oh, and as far as crazy Raiders fans and the Black Hole, Bradford says bring it on.
Steven Jackson "said it's actually pretty fun," Bradford said. "He said it's a nasty crowd, they're violent, they yell at you. But those are the type of crowds that make it enjoyable to play. I am looking forward to the challenge."
Briefly: Guard Robert Gallery and defensive tackle Richard Seymour, both with hamstring injuries, didn't practice. Gallery is probably out for Sunday, but coach Tom Cable said Seymour is better and could play. ... Cable hadn't decided whether to start rookie Jared Veldheer or Samson Satele at center. ... The availability of running back Michael Bush (thumb) will again be a game-time decision.
About Sam Bradford
Born: Nov. 8, 1987, Oklahoma City.
College highlights: Won the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore in 2008 after throwing for 4,721 yards and 50 touchdowns as Oklahoma went 12-1, lost in the BCS title game to Florida and set an NCAA record for points in a season (702).
NFL: Set a record for completions (32) and attempts (55) in a debut, passing for 253 yards in a 17-13 loss to Arizona last Sunday.
Did you know? Bradford is one-sixteenth Cherokee. He was the first Division I college player of Cherokee descent to start at quarterback since Sonny Sixkiller (Washington, 1970-72).
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