Smart, accurate, mature, dedicated — all words that NFL scouts used to described Sam Bradford when the quarterback was coming out of Oklahoma after his junior season.
You didn’t hear much of that, not after Bradford was twice knocked out during his final season by an injured throwing shoulder. That was a roll of the dice the St. Louis Rams were willing to take when they made him the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft, essentially putting the franchise in his hands.
So far, so good. Bradford has shown precision, poise — and, yes, durability — in leading the Rams to the brink of the postseason. They play at Seattle on Sunday night with the NFC West title up for grabs.
With one game remaining on his team’s schedule, Bradford has taken every snap this season. Only Baltimore’s Joe Flacco and Indianapolis’ Peyton Manning have done the same.
“I take a lot [of pride] in that,” Bradford said this week, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Especially coming off the shoulder injury last year and knowing that there were a lot of questions about my durability, about my ability to take hits in this league.
“So the fact that I’ve been able to take every snap with this offense, I do take a lot of pride in that.”
That’s a remarkably rare accomplishment for a rookie, something only three first-year quarterbacks have done: Atlanta’s Matt Ryan in 2008, Houston’s David Carr in 2002, and the Colts’ Manning in 1998.
What’s more, if the Rams win, Bradford has a chance to become the first quarterback taken No. 1 overall to start a playoff game in his rookie season. With Bradford at the helm, St. Louis has scored 283 points after racking up a league-low 175 last season. “Over the 15 games that we’ve all been together, I think all the guys, myself included, realize that Sam is a competitor,” Rams Coach Steve Spagnuolo said.
“He enjoys playing. He’s good for our football team. We’re glad we have him as a quarterback, but I think he proved early that he could go out there and do the things you need to do as a quarterback in the NFL.”