BY JIM THOMAS jthomas@post-dispatch.com > 314-340-8197


03/25/2010

ORLANDO, FLA. Steve Spagnuolo has studied a lot of film on quarterback Sam Bradford.

"The one thing that jumps out is his accuracy," Spagnuolo said. "He's extremely accurate. I was talking to a couple other (NFL) head coaches about him, and that's the first thing they say, too."

Last month at the NFL scouting combine, Spagnuolo came away from the Rams' allotted 15-minute interview session impressed with the University of Oklahoma quarterback.

"Everything you hear about him, that's said, it's legit," Spagnuolo said. "He walks into a room, you can see he's a quarterback. That was impressive to me." ShopSTL Marketplace

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There were about 10 Rams officials on hand, including Spagnuolo, general manager Billy Devaney, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and several scouts when Bradford walked into the combine meeting room in Indianapolis. There were floodlights in the room as well because the Rams were taping the interview.

"There were a lot of bodies in there, in kind of a small room," Spagnuolo recalled. "It was a little intimidating, or it could've been for a 22-year-old guy. And yet, he walked in and did not seem to be wasn't rattled at all. I think that's a good sign."

So the Rams can mark accuracy (from film) and presence (from that meeting room) on their Bradford checklist. But the "big enchilada" in terms of evaluation comes Monday in Norman, Okla. That's when Bradford has his pro day at the University of Oklahoma.

It marks the first time the Rams, or any other NFL team, will see Bradford throw since the season-ending injury to his throwing shoulder last fall for the Sooners. And it's the best way to gauge Bradford's arm strength.

"You've got to get that live in my opinion," Spagnuolo said Wednesday at the NFC coaches breakfast. "When you're on film, is the wind blowing against him or with him? You don't really know. So I think you've got to assess (arm strength) live."

Spagnuolo also will get another gauge of Bradford's "presence" this time on a football field instead of the more controlled setting of the combine meeting room. Spagnuolo will see how Bradford reacts with his teammates and the coaches who are on hand. He'll study Bradford's body language.

"He's in his own setting now," Spagnuolo said. "I'm really interested in that. I'm going to try to grab him by myself at some point, probably early in the morning, just him and I. See if I can pull a couple other things out of him, find out a little bit more. And just come away with an overall assessment."

League sources told the Post-Dispatch last week that Devaney and Shurmur traveled to Pensacola, Fla. where Bradford had been training and rehabbing to meet with Bradford and his doctor.

But save for that 15-minute session at the combine, Spagnuolo hasn't spent any time with Bradford, who seemingly is the growing favorite to be taken No. 1 overall by the Rams in the draft.

The Rams and Bradford will get a lot more face time in the coming weeks, starting with Monday's pro day. Bradford also will be making a "top 30" visit to Rams Park on April 12. In addition, Spagnuolo strongly hinted that the Rams will have a private workout with Bradford sometime between Monday's pro day and the first day of the draft April 22.

Bradford's session Monday will consist of throwing only. He will do no running, no lifting, no other drills. Even if Bradford shines Monday, the Rams probably want to see him throw again at a later date.

"You know, when I was in college and had to get ready for a test, I'd still be studying past midnight 'cause I just figured it was every little bit you could get in," Spagnuolo said.

Similarly, the Rams would like to do as much homework as possible on Bradford, watching every throw possible from his surgically repaired shoulder before investing tens of millions of dollars.

"Let's assume it's a 'blowout' workout," Spagnuolo said. "But yet, you want to see a couple weeks later, is it still you know did (the shoulder) react properly? I could see us still doing it even if it was a great workout."

Because of his defensive background, Spagnuolo is leaning more on Devaney, Shurmur, and quarterbacks coach Dick Curl in terms of evaluating mechanics, fundamentals, etc., of the quarterback position.

He's also picking the brains of head-coaching counterparts in the league who have offensive backgrounds, including Philadelphia's Andy Reid, Minnesota's Brad Childress and Denver's Josh McDaniels.

"The guys I respect and that know quarterbacks," Spagnuolo said. "They don't have to tell me (anything), but most of the guys are great. They're pretty open about it."

Spagnuolo spent eight years as an assistant on Reid's staff; for most of that time Childress was also on that Eagles staff.