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Bradford Starts Strong

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  • Bradford Starts Strong

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    Of all the lessons Rams rookie quarterback Sam Bradford took from his first five professional football practices last weekend, perhaps the most important thing he learned is that he now knows what he doesn’t know.
    “I realize this is kind of the beginning of the work process for me, and I think one of the great things about this weekend is I saw just exactly how far I have to go,” Bradford said as the Rams wrapped up camp on Sunday. “We just put in a slight portion of the playbook. I felt like I handled it, but there’s so much more to come. I really need to make sure that I’m prepared by the time I come back here in a couple weeks.”
    Indeed, the Rams’ rookie minicamp resembled more of an introduction, a Rams Football 101, if you will, than anything like what a NFL Sunday will be.

    For Bradford and the rest of the team’s rookie class, adjusting to the pro game is a long and arduous process. But there’s little doubt that a quarterback has the steepest and most mentally demanding of all tasks.
    In the week leading up to the minicamp, Bradford spent plenty of time on the phone with offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and quarterbacks coach Richard Curl. Those sessions were meant to prepare Bradford for all that goes into being a NFL signal caller.
    Things like knowing the verbiage, spitting out the plays quickly and making sure everyone is doing his job on a given play. Taking command of the huddle was another issue the Rams coaching staff wanted to see right away.
    “I think Sam did a terrific job,” Shurmur said. “This is the first time he’s hearing things and all the reasons for drafting him were obvious. He’s very smart, got a great command of the huddle. He’s got great attention to detail. By the end of the week, he was repeating things like he got them in the installations and he’s very talented. So you take the talent and the work hard and I think he progressed well in five practices.”
    Shurmur said the Rams even went so far as to try to find ways to throw Bradford off by adding installations with different plays with different protections, route combinations and progressions.
    In other words, pretty much everything a quarterback has to go through mentally in a game and find a way to execute, the Rams asked Bradford to do.
    “There are always things to work through and that’s why you repeat things, but I think he handled the workload well,” Shurmur said. “Really, we tried to mentally stress him a little bit to see how he’d handle things. He handled that well and he was able to bring the stuff from the meeting to the practice field. That’s the most important thing.”
    One area that put no stress on Bradford was something that some might not have expected him to do so well.
    Some believe that Bradford comes from a strictly shotgun-formation oriented spread offense at Oklahoma where he rarely took snaps under center.
    Of course, Bradford actually took about half the snaps under center for the Sooners and looked plenty comfortable doing it for the Rams on a weekend where he literally spent no time in the shotgun.
    “He’s a natural quarterback, so the focus in this camp was to do pretty much everything under center so we could work on the one, the three, the five and seven-step drop,” Shurmur said. “As time goes on, what naturally happens is they get smoother and smoother and smoother. Your eyes kind of take you where your feet go and your feet take your eyes where to go. I think he did a pretty fine job.”
    One other thing that Bradford did not get to experience was putting on the pads and taking a hit. Neither did any of the other players in attendance as league rules forbid teams from having pads on during these types of camps.

    Still, Bradford says he is looking forward to taking that first hit to prove that his shoulder is going to hold up just fine after his surgery.
    “I think it will be cool, and hopefully it will kind of calm everyone down, because I think everyone is freaking out about it,” Bradford said, laughing. “Like, ‘If his shoulder gets touched, is he just going to like, die?’ It’s going to be okay. I’m going to be able to take a hit. But it’s been a long time since I got to play football, a long time since I got to take a hit. Sometimes it’s fun to take one. You know, as soon as you take a hit, you’re ready to go. It gets you going.”
    While Bradford remains unconcerned with his ability to take a hit, he openly acknowledges that he is going to have to adjust to the speed of the game.
    In Sunday’s final practice, Bradford sat back and dissected the defense in 7 on 7 drills. But coach Steve Spagnuolo stepped in and reminded Bradford that he isn’t going to have that kind of time in the NFL and he needs to get the ball out quicker.
    “I just need to quicken things up,” Bradford said. “That’s one of the things right now that I’m learning is that I’m still thinking a lot when I get under center whereas back at Oklahoma after playing in a system for three years, you’re comfortable with everything, so it’s just second nature. I think that’s just a matter of watching tape, studying my playbook and getting reps. I think as that happens, I’ll become quicker and play more to the speed that they want me to play.”

    After Spagnuolo’s reminder, Bradford and the Rams moved to the other end of the field for some red zone work. If ever there’s a time to speed up reads and release, it’s inside the opponent’s 20.
    “I was really anxious to see the way he would react in the red zone,” Spagnuolo said. “I reminded him that down here you can’t hold on to the football. Everything happens a little bit faster. When we went to team, I thought he did that and I thought he got it out pretty quick. He had one nice throw down here in the corner, so those are the things that kind of stick out.”

    Over the next few months, there figure to be plenty of things that stick out about Bradford. His teammates and coaches raved about his pinpoint accuracy, his leadership in the huddle and his ability to throw accurately and with velocity while on the run, among other impressive traits.
    Bradford and the rest of the rookies can’t return to St. Louis until May 17 but in the meantime, he will get plenty more time on the phone with Shurmur and Curl. All of those chat sessions are designed to help Bradford speed things up so when the veterans arrive and the pads come on, there is no hesitation.
    “When you step on the field and you look at it, it looks really easy on paper and you’re like, “I should be able to go out and run this,’” Bradford said. “Then everything starts moving and things change, routes don’t exactly get run the way you draw it up on paper, and you have to adjust. I think that’s the thing that I need to really improve on. It’s just going to take time and take hard work.”

  • #2
    Re: Bradford Starts Strong

    So far, so good. I just wished he wasn't so cavalier about injury-prevention. Things I'd like to hear from Sam might be: "Yeah, the shoulder feels great but the game is so much faster & the players all so much bigger that I am watching a lot of film of guys like Warner who learned how to position their bodies to protect against injury before taking hits so that it's second nature by the time the regular season starts."

    Right now, all I'm hearing is what his body english was indicating during the Gruden session; "I'm tired of hearing this stuff. I can take hits from bigger & better DLers that have shattered careers without making any adjustments to my college game."


    • #3
      Re: Bradford Starts Strong

      Originally posted by Azul e Oro
      So far, so good. I just wished he wasn't so cavalier about injury-prevention. Things I'd like to hear from Sam might be: "Yeah, the shoulder feels great but the game is so much faster & the players all so much bigger that I am watching a lot of film of guys like Warner who learned how to position their bodies to protect against injury before taking hits so that it's second nature by the time the regular season starts."

      Right now, all I'm hearing is what his body english was indicating during the Gruden session; "I'm tired of hearing this stuff. I can take hits from bigger & better DLers that have shattered careers without making any adjustments to my college game."

      You're right, and I agree that he should maybe have a different attitude about it. Too gung ho maybe?

      But, I think he just feels overwhelmed with all the pressure of "is his shoulder going to hold up", and just wants to prove doubters wrong.


      Related Topics


      • MauiRam
        Bradford Makes a Good Impression ..
        by MauiRam

        For five practices over three days, Sam Bradford called the play in the huddle, stepped up to the line and (drum roll, please) lined up under center.

        Let the transition begin, from spread offense at Oklahoma to pro-style quarterback with the Rams. By all accounts, it was a good start for the No. 1 overall draft pick.

        "Sam did a terrific job," offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said Sunday after the conclusion of the Rams' rookie minicamp. "All the reasons for drafting him were obvious.

        "He's very smart. Got a great command of the huddle. He's got great attention to detail. By the end of the weekend, he was repeating things like he got 'em in the installations. And he's very talented. So you take the talent and then the 'work hard' and I think he progressed well in five practices."

        There is much to learn and many hurdles to cross. But Bradford's Rams journey began with him lining up under center — over and over and over again. By design, every snap Bradford took over the weekend was under center as opposed to the shotgun formation.

        "The focus in this camp was to do pretty much everything under center, so we could work on the one-, the three-, the five- and seven-step drop," Shurmur said. "As time goes on, what naturally happens is they get smoother and smoother and smoother."

        At first blush, Bradford looked surprisingly comfortable with his footwork and his dropbacks. About 85 percent of the rookie minicamp was open to the media (all but about 90 minutes of Friday morning's practice). And in that time, Bradford had only two botched center exchanges.

        Maybe this shouldn't be surprising. It's not as if Bradford never lined up under center. He said the Sooners were under center about half the time during his freshman season.

        "That's one of the things that the media kind of skews a little bit, because it's not that big of a deal," Bradford said. "If you've never taken a snap from under center, I mean, I could see where the footwork obviously would take some time getting used to. But if you've spent any time under center. ... I've taken snaps under center since I was in third grade."

        So give Bradford an early checkmark for his work under center over the weekend. But that's just one layer of his multi-faceted learning curve.

        In the week between the draft and the minicamp, Bradford spent hours on the phone with Shurmur and quarterbacks coach Dick Curl. They talked about formations, protections, the cadence, even how everyone would line up in the huddle.

        "A lot of the little things that I don't think everyone sees," Bradford said. "You don't think about it because everyone thinks, 'Oh, it's second nature.' But when you haven't done it, and you don't know how the Rams do...
        -05-02-2010, 09:22 PM
      • sosa39rams
        Sam Bradford's Progress
        by sosa39rams
        In the days leading up to training camp, Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo consistently maintained that if the season started today, veteran A.J. Feeley would be the starter.

        About a week into camp, Feeley continues his hold on that spot as he still gets the majority of the repetitions with the first team.

        But in those same days before camp, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur laid out a basic outline of the many things rookie quarterback Sam Bradford would need to do in this camp to wrest away the top job at start on Sept. 12 against Arizona.

        “I think you have to do it in practice prior to doing it in a game,” Shurmur said. “We’ll evaluate everything from calling the plays to managing the huddle to executing at the line of scrimmage, the audibles, the alerts, the overs, and just basic general efficiency. I think that’s what we’re going to be looking for.”

        Nine practices into the full squad portion of this camp, things with Bradford appear to be right on schedule. Although he hasn’t been perfect – what rookie is? – Spagnuolo has seen nothing that would indicate Bradford isn’t on course to put checks next to each of Shurmur’s aforementioned objectives.

        “There’s nothing to discourage me,” Spagnuolo said. “You know, like all the quarterbacks out there he had some good throws and some bad ones. I do like the fact that when he makes a mistake, boy, he’s got some… he’s not very happy and he shows it. That’s a good thing. He’s got some feisty to him. I think that’s good in a quarterback.”

        The challenge for Bradford as the Rams steamroll toward preseason games and even Saturday night’s scrimmage at Lindenwood University is to begin cutting down on those mistakes and start finding ways to speed up his reads and production.

        “I think the more I’m out there, the more repetitions I get, the more comfortable I become,” Bradford said. “I think the more situations I’m put in, every day we have a special category, we go through something new. Today we had a blitz period. So the more things that I’m exposed, to the more comfortable I become.”

        Bradford is getting plenty of repetitions though those reps are coming in a variety of situations and with all three of the offensive units, mostly the second team.

        Back in the spring when the Rams were going through Organized Team Activities and the offseason program, Bradford found himself adjusting to some of the basics of the offense.

        Things like terminology, footwork, taking snaps and commanding the huddle were at the top of the agenda. Those were all things Bradford embraced and excelled at according to teammates and the coaching staff.

        If nothing else, it gave them a lot of hope that he could translate it to the field and hit the ground running once camp began.

        “His challenge is to be ready to play Day 1, and if that works out, great,” Shurmur said....
        -08-05-2010, 09:35 PM
      • Nick
        For Bradford, it's time to play
        by Nick
        For Bradford, it's time to play
        BY JIM THOMAS | Posted: Sunday, August 1, 2010 12:00 am

        The numbers are legit. Quarterback Sam Bradford really can earn as much as $86 million over the next six years.

        So these aren't just the St. Louis Rams anymore. It's Sam's Club. A fitting name for a franchise that looks as if it's about to be owned by a member of the extended Wal-Mart family (Stan Kroenke).

        But now, Bradford starts to earn that money. On Saturday afternoon, about an hour after signing his contract, he began in earnest the task of living up to that mega-deal.

        Pressure? What pressure?

        "You just have to go play football," Bradford said after his first NFL training camp practice. "If you start worrying about all those other things, then it can really affect your performance. And I always put a lot of pressure on myself to succeed as it is.

        "So I don't think that's going to change. I have very high expectations for myself and this team this year. I think that's really what's going to drive me to work to succeed."

        On the first full-squad practice of camp, A.J. Feeley opened as the No. 1 quarterback, as expected. But there are millions of reasons why Bradford will be the Rams' starting quarterback. Such as the $50 million in guaranteed money in his contract. And the $78 million basic value of the contract. And even the $86 million maximum value of the deal if certain incentives are met.

        The task at hand is getting Bradford ready to play ASAP. He missed three practices total on Thursday and Friday while his deal was getting hammered out. What did he miss?

        "Well, a bunch of reps," coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "Probably getting his arm loosened up. And basically what he's doing over there right now, which is just timing with the wideouts."

        As Spagnuolo spoke, Bradford was getting in extra work throwing to a couple of receivers after practice.

        "But the one thing about how the league is structured right now is we get those OTAs and minicamps," Spagnuolo said. "So he's had most of what we did today. He'll get caught up."

        To a large degree, it's up to offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, quarterbacks coach Dick Curl and, of course, Bradford to get the No. 1 overall draft pick ready for the regular season.

        "He did such a good job in the spring, I'd like to see him be able to build on that," Shurmur said. "His challenge is to be ready to play Day One, and if that works out, great. If it takes a little bit longer, so be it."

        During the nearly six-week break between the end of the Rams' spring practice period and Saturday's start of camp, Bradford took some homework back to Oklahoma in the form of practice tapes, the playbook and notes he took during the spring practices....
        -08-01-2010, 08:02 AM
      • Rambos
        Bradford Looks to Raise the Bar
        by Rambos
        Nick Wagoner

        With a variety of options for his next coaching destination, Jeff Fisher looked closely at the organizations he was considering.

        As the Rams and Dolphins hotly pursued Fisher in hopes he would become the next to steer their franchises in a winning direction, Fisher took out his microscope and evaluated the important facets already in place and determined what would be needed to be successful.

        While Fisher earned a reputation in Tennessee for having physically dominant teams with an offensive preference for running the ball, nobody keeps up with the game’s trends better.

        So when Fisher decided St. Louis would be his second NFL head coaching destination, there were two things in place the Rams had that none of his other suitors could offer. One was a committed owner in Stan Kroenke who would allow Fisher to put his system in place.

        “The other was a quarterback,” Fisher said.

        Namely, Rams quarterback Sam Bradford, a player Fisher watched closely in his year away from the game and a player Fisher is willing to wager is still due for big things in his career.

        “(Last) year was difficult,” Fisher said. “I think you have to look back at his success and his production in his first year. Difficult for a lot of reasons, the lockout and lack of time together in the offense, but I think he has the chance to be a top quarterback in the National Football League very, very soon.”


        Bradford indeed was coming off a rough 2011 season in which a high ankle sprain limited him to 10 games and kept him at less than full strength in a handful of others. The injury also limited Bradford’s production.

        Coming off a Rookie of the Year performance in 2010, Bradford finished with 2,164 yards, six touchdowns and six interceptions completing just 53.5 percent of his passes on his way to a rating of 70.5.

        Despite glimpses of the player he’d been in 2010, nobody was more disappointed with his sophomore campaign than Bradford himself.

        “I think last year there were times I was inconsistent and that was frustrating because there were times I felt I did play well,” Bradford said.
        Entering the offseason with a new regime coming in and arms with the No. 2 pick in the NFL Draft, a draft in which two potential franchise quarterbacks were available, it wasn’t out of the question that Bradford’s status could be up in the air.

        But Fisher and later, new general manager Les Snead, wasted no time in putting any Bradford rumors to rest. Not only did Fisher and Snead not entertain the option of drafting a quarterback, they moved quickly to trade the draft pick for a boatload of future picks despite interest from other teams in trading for Bradford.

        The vote of confidence without so much as a tick of hesitation earned Fisher and Snead Bradford’s immediate...
        -09-08-2012, 11:00 AM
      • RockinRam
        Rams’ Bradford prepares for first big test
        by RockinRam
        Posted Aug. 13, 2010 @ 10:14 a.m. ET
        By Eric Edholm

        ST. LOUIS — The rookie quarterback who has enough money to buy a chunk of his new team isn’t above running a lap when the offense makes a mistake.

        Meet Sam Bradford — $50 million man and football junkie.

        The top pick in April’s draft has been charged with turning around the state of a 1-15 Rams franchise that last season bottomed out after setting the league on fire at times during the glory days of 1999 to the middle of the next decade. Playing at a first-rate program like Oklahoma prepared him for a lot, but the biggest hurdle of his football life lies ahead of him.

        Right now, Bradford knows his place. He’s the second-string quarterback behind A.J. Feeley, just trying his best to find a place on this team in transition without attracting too much extra attention to himself. If you ask Bradford, he’d try to tell you he’s just one of 80 players in camp trying to carve out a role.

        “We ask everyone on the team that,” Bradford said of his penalty lap. “If you mess up, to take a lap. I messed up, took a lap, and that’s part of it.

        “It keeps everyone accountable for their actions. It makes sure everyone is on the same page.”

        Everyone watching Bradford thus far is on this page: He really can throw the football.

        After his breakout performance of camp, a scrimmage at nearby Lindenwood University last week in which Bradford barely let a ball hit the ground, the stakes have risen even more. There hasn’t been this much anticipation for a preseason opening game in St. Louis in a long time. Bradford will make his debut Saturday against the Vikings. Although Feeley will start, head coach Steve Spagnuolo said Bradford would get time with the first team.

        “Everybody should have an opinion (on when Bradford should start),” Spagnuolo said. “We’ll do what we think is right and we’ll do it based on what’s (happening) on the field.”

        It’s only a matter of time before Bradford takes over the starting role for good. Usually the concern with a rookie quarterback is that coaches don’t want to crush a kid’s confidence by throwing him to the wolves before he’s ready. But with Bradford, he looks mature beyond his years and in control of the action, even when things don’t go perfectly.

        “He’s definitely more than capable, mentally and physically, of handling it,” C Jason Brown said. “The work ethic, discipline, toughness, responsibility, ability … the kid has it all.”

        Spagnuolo said that Bradford has more than met his expectations in most areas of his game, and in some cases exceeded them.

        “He sees the field really well,” Spagnuolo said. Things are starting to … the game is slowing down. (But) this is practice now. I should say, the practice is slowing down for him. We’ve...
        -08-13-2010, 10:28 AM