'There's no doubt I made the right decision'
by: JOHN E. HOOVER World Sports Writer
Thursday, January 14, 2010
1/14/2010 4:08:51 AM
After the 2008 season, Sam Bradford was the Heisman Trophy winner and a projected No. 1 pick in the NFL draft. One year ago today, he announced he was putting the NFL on hold and returning to OU. Despite injuries that may have hurt his draft stock, Bradford says he's happy with his choice.
A year ago today, Sam Bradford stood at the podium in OU's Memorial Stadium Club and spoke of his contentment and satisfaction with having decided to play another year at Oklahoma.
The NFL scouting combine, the draft, mini-camps, contract negotiations, training camp, and the millions of dollars that go with it all for high first-round picks — it could all wait, Bradford said. He would be a Sooner in 2009.
Now, with his shoulder twice wrecked and still on the mend, a question is speeding toward Bradford with each sunrise.
Did he make the right decision?
"There's no doubt I made the right decision," Bradford told the Tulsa World in a telephone interview Wednesday night. "I mean, people can doubt me and people can question me and say I made the wrong decision, but no one was sitting in my shoes last year. No one had all the information that I had last year. No one knew my emotions, how I felt last year. So no one could make that decision for me except for me.
"I know I made the right decision and some people might not agree with it, but it wasn't their decision. It was my decision."
Bradford clocks in every morning at his new full-time job in Gulf Breeze, Fla. He works out every morning at Athletes Performance, Inc., rehabs his shoulder for 90 minutes every afternoon at the Andrews Institute for Orthopedic and Sports Medicine, then works out again at API until 5. He'll start light throwing soon, he said, but doesn't expect to do anything at the NFL Scouting Combine except interview and show off his shoulder.
If the shoulder checks out, his draft status should be fine. If it's troublesome, his stock will fall, and those who say he made the wrong decision by staying at OU in 2009 will sound off in full force. Unfortunately, NFL scouts don't have much to work with — other than two years of exceptional quarterbacking and a sore shoulder.
"The draft process, as strange as it sounds, has a lot to do sometimes with momentum, and his momentum right now is all negative," Scouts, Inc. director Todd McShay told the Tulsa World in a recent interview. "When you sit in a draft room with a general manager and a bunch of scouts, it's real easy to compare him with, say, Jimmy Clausen . . . (and) start bringing out the negatives: 'Well, he was in a system that doesn't translate to the NFL. Little bit undersized. Durability issues. Never saw him in tough game situations.'
"All of a sudden that negativity starts rolling and rolling and rolling and before you know it he winds up in the second round."
During an ESPN interview this week, McShay called Bradford "the best quarterback in this class" and said, "assuming he checks out healthy at the combine and there's no question about that shoulder injury — I think he's a little bit of a reach this high — but as the No. 1 quarterback, you know he's going to go in the top five to 10 picks."
senior writer and former Dallas Cowboys personnel director Gil Brandt said he, too, expected Bradford to be taken in the top five. Draft analyst Mel Kiper, also an ESPN contributor, has Bradford ranked No. 5 overall. Scouts, Inc., ranks Bradford the No. 11 overall prospect.
If Bradford goes in the first five to 10 picks, that's precisely where he was projected last year before he declared his intention to play another year at OU.
The guaranteed money for quarterbacks in the last two drafts was starkly different in regards to their draft position.
In 2008, Matt Ryan was chosen No. 3 by Atlanta and received $34 million guaranteed. Baltimore picked Joe Flacco at No. 18 and gave him $8.75 million guaranteed.
In 2009, Matthew Stafford went to Detroit with the No. 1 overall pick and got $41 million guaranteed. At No. 5, the New York Jets gave Mark Sanchez $28 million guaranteed. Josh Freeman, the No. 17 pick, got $10 million guaranteed from Tampa Bay.
What determines Bradford's bank account, Brandt said, is exactly what NFL teams think about his right shoulder when they finally get to see it at the combine next month.
"Nobody can bring this guy in to give him an exam. You're not allowed to," Brandt said. "So you won't know anything until February 25th or 26th, because they report on the 24th to Indianapolis."
Brandt recalled the 2007 case of Sooner running back Adrian Peterson, who came out with a fractured collarbone. Half the NFL teams thought he was a risk, the other half didn't, Brandt said. He ended up going to Minnesota with the seventh pick and has led the league in rushing yards over the last three years.
"The same doctors with the same degrees," Brandt said, "don't always read the X-rays the same way."
Which gets down to this: Among those teams who aren't scared away by Bradford's injury, which ones need a quarterback, and where are they drafting?
"All it takes is one team to fall in love with him," McShay said, "but I know how this thing works, and it just makes me nervous for him, the negativity that'll start snowballing."