Bradford Comes In Comfortable

Posted Jul 31, 2012

In the first three practices of the 2012 training camp, Rams quarterback Sam Bradford hasn’t misfired much.

On the few occasions Bradford’s missed a receiver; it seems to be more a product of his own enthusiasm and zeal than anything else.

By his own admission, as Bradford enters his third season in the NFL, he’s feeling as good as ever and it’s evident in the zip on each of his passes.

“I feel really good right now,” Bradford said. “My arm feels probably as strong as it’s ever felt. I think a big thing for me is maintaining that.  Obviously during camp you take a lot of reps, you make a lot of throws, so staying on top of my shoulder and my body, making sure that it stays in shape is something that I am going to be really aware of this year.”

Therein lies the rub for Bradford. So far in his short NFL tenure, there haven’t been too many that questioned his physical skills and ability to makes plays in the NFL. What might have been missing in those seasons was consistency and then last season the ability to stay healthy as he dealt with an ankle injury for most of the season.

One cure for the consistency issue would seem to be the addition of a more stable offense or at least one that is the same from year to year.

Bradford went from an offense he grasped well enough to earn Offensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2010 under then coordinator Pat Shurmur to one that couldn’t have been more different last season under Josh McDaniels.

This year, Brian Schottenheimer has taken over as offensive coordinator and he brings an offense far more similar to the one Bradford had some success with as a rookie under Shurmur than the one he struggled with last season.

Even just three days into training camp, coach Jeff Fisher is already seeing many of the things he believed so strongly in when he opted to take the Rams job in no small part because of Bradford’s presence.

“The things that we’re seeing from him right now: really good understanding of the offense, not afraid to practice, not afraid to pull the trigger, learn from the mistakes and just take charge,” Fisher said. “And that’s what he’s doing. He’s doing a great job. He’s made some great throws. You see him developing relationships with even the younger receivers already. He’s right on track. His potential is extremely, extremely good.”

Getting some stability in terms of system and with a coordinator and new quarterbacks coach Frank Cignetti has been helpful in getting Bradford back up to speed in the offseason.

That there was an offseason at all might have been the most valuable aspect. Most incumbent players immediately go under the microscope after a new staff comes in but Fisher made it clear from the beginning that Bradford was his guy.

Fisher and general manager Les Snead drove that point home even further when they dealt the No. 2 pick and a chance at Robert Griffin III to Washington for a boat load of picks.

Upon the start of the offseason program, Bradford was instantly a step ahead of where he was in last year’s offense. He was given time to learn the new scheme multiple times and practice it long before training camp ever began.

Bradford even went so far as to invite and pay for fellow quarterbacks like Kellen Clemens and Tom Brandstater along with a group of receivers to Oklahoma for a few days to help out with his football camp and do some work on the side during their down time.

“We got some work in and it was definitely the hardest we got after it,” Bradford said. “But other than that, I kept the regiment pretty much the same.”

That regiment included regular throwing sessions and plenty of time spent staying sharp in the playbook. Considering that last offseason he barely even had an opportunity to see his new playbook before camp because of the lockout and the similarities between Schottenheimer and Shurmur systems, Bradford is light years ahead of where he was when camp opened in 2011.

“Obviously everything we did today I have seen before and repped whereas last year day one was day one,” Bradford said. “It had been like day one of OTAs, where as you had seen it on paper but it hadn’t actually gone out and physically run the play.  Whereas today, everything we did I have done in the past and repped and today was second or third time around.”

Bradford also returned to St. Louis another six or so weeks removed from the high ankle sprain that limited him to just 10 games, about half of which he attempted to play through the injury and wasn’t at full speed.

In the spring, Bradford mentioned that he was still feeling the affects of the injury, most of which he said was general soreness.

Bradford remains aware of the injury and says he’s constantly taking the steps necessary to ensure a full recovery.

“You know it’s okay,” Bradford said. “Obviously, today I had no problems with it.  When I said earlier I have to stay on top of my body, I still think that’s one thing I have to make sure I take care of.  Our trainers have already told me, talked to the coaches, if it does start giving me problems; it’s something that I’m going to bring up.  If it causes me to limit reps then that’s what we’re going to do.  I’m not going to go into the season with a sore ankle again.”

So far, though, Bradford hasn’t been bothered by the ankle and has impressed his teammates and coaches with his grasp of the offense as well as the way he’s been throwing it on the field.

After missing so much time last season, Bradford is just happy to be back on the field.

“It was awesome,” Bradford said. “It’s just fun to be back out here again.  Obviously having OTAs and minicamp were great but certainly nothing like training camp.”

The camp will also provide Bradford an opportunity to develop chemistry with a revamped group of receivers that includes new faces such as rookies Brian Quick and Chris Givens and veteran Steve Smith.

That bonding process began in the spring but it’s still underway and figures to be advantageous for Bradford to help improve upon the 2,164 yards, six touchdowns and six interceptions he threw for last season.

“I am really excited about the group of wide receivers we’re working with this year,” Bradford said. “I think the guys that have been here have definitely matured over the years.  I’m really happy with the way they came out and played today, the young guys, too.  They’ve really learned a lot very quickly during the offseason so I’m really happy with where they’re at, and hopefully we can continue to progress and continue to build our chemistry and get better everyday out here.”