So there was Sam Bradford on Thursday, for the second time in 10 1/2 months talking about a season-ending knee injury. Talking about a second surgery on his left knee. Talking about what might have been while trying to keep his emotions in check.
Meeting with reporters for the first time since the injury, Bradford said his first reaction to the news he had torn his ACL was something along the lines of: "You've got to be kidding me."
After a pause, he continued.
"I'm not sure I could really describe how it felt," he said. "It was just really tough to put all the work in and then to have it happen again."
That's because the knee didn't feel that bad after he absorbed a first-quarter hit from Cleveland defensive end Armonty Bryant in the Rams' Aug. 23 preseason game. Bradford wasn't carted off the field. He walked under his own power, limping slightly, from the field into the visitors locker room at FirstEnergy Stadium.
He was moving around pretty well after that game. He told teammates he was OK. Even coach Jeff Fisher took the bait to a degree, sounding optimistic in his post-game press conference that night.
"I didn't feel like it was torn at all," Bradford said.
Adding to Bradford's optimism was the fact that there was no swelling the next morning.
"No. That's what was kind of tough for me to comprehend," Bradford said. "Because it was so much different than last year's injury. There wasn't any pain. There was no swelling. There were no signs that the knee had gone through any sort of trauma. So to find out that my ACL was torn was even that much harder to believe."
The MRI exam the next day back in St. Louis told a different story. Torn anterior cruciate ligament in the same knee he injured last Oct. 20 at Carolina. Out for the season. Again.
Bradford hasn't scheduled the surgery yet. He said there are a couple of possible dates but nothing is set in stone. Once again, Dr. James Andrews will perform the surgery.
Bradford said he will spend his time around the team post-surgery, once he begins the long arduous rehab process.
"I enjoy being around here," he said. "Hopefully, the guys and Shaun (Hill) enjoy having me around. It's gonna be pretty similar to last year.
"You know, I'll be rehabbing here. Sitting in on meetings. Going out to practice when I can and just offering my ideas when I have 'em. And just trying to help Shaun _ be an ear and an eye for him."
It was suggested to Bradford that perhaps because the symptoms weren't so bad after the injury that perhaps the damage to the knee won't be as serious. Bradford isn't holding his breath on that one.
"I'm hoping for that, but at the same time I'm gonna anticipate it's the same thing," he said. "It's gonna be a long, tough process. It's not gonna be easy, but hopefully it does feel better. And hopefully in a couple months I can tell you that it's been a lot easier, and a lot less painful. But I guess I'm gonna expect the worst and hope for the best."
With only one year left on his contract after this season, and due to make a $13 million base salary in 2015, Bradford's future is uncertain in St. Louis. But that's the furthest thing from his mind at this point.
"You know, I can't focus on that right now," Bradford said. "I think it's a little too soon. I haven't even thought that far ahead. It's still pretty hard to comprehend (the injury) right now."
Strange as it may sound he's looking forward to the surgery and the rehab process.
"(They) will give me something to focus on, and something to put my attention towards," he said.
At the moment, he can only wonder why it happened, and try to make sense of it. When he spoke to a handful of reporters Thursday, he was only 12 days removed from the injury.
It's still very fresh to him. And at times Thursday, it was difficult to fight back the tears.
"Obviously, everyone in this locker room has been great, very supportive," Bradford said. "That's why I think it's been a good thing for me to stay around here and just be a part of the team."
Bradford was especially grateful that wide receiver Chris Givens, who underwent back-to-back ACL surgeries in high school _ one to each knee _ reached out to Bradford afterwards with words of encouragement.
"For 'Giv' to reach out, it means a lot," Bradford said. "Obviously you look at what he's been able to do after having two operations. It shows that it is possible to come back from (two ACLs)."
Be it training camp or in the preseason, Bradford was throwing the ball as well as ever prior to the latest injury. Those who know Bradford said he was very determined to silence his doubters and lead the Rams to the breakout season that has been so long overdue in St. Louis.
All of which makes this second injury such a bitter pill to swallow.
"I think we finally had everything going in the right direction around here," he said. "This is as talented a team as I've ever been a part of on both sides of the ball. I was just so excited to get back out on the field and play with these guys.
"And from what we were able to do in OTAs and in training camp. I guess not knowing how it would've turned out this year is probably something that's gonna eat me up for a while."
He was fighting back tears as he finished those last remarks, which ended his media session.
In moves that save the Rams nearly $2.5 million in salary cap space, defensive end Chris Long and wide receiver Austin Pettis restructured their contracts Wednesday.
Long's restructuring merely shuffles money around, and he makes the same amount. Pettis, however, took a $481,000 pay cut, although he can make back $400,000 if he reaches incentives in receptions, receptions yards, and touchdowns.
_ On the Ram's Thursday injury report, DE Jake Long (knee), DE William Hayes (chest), and LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar (shoulder) were upgraded to full participation after being listed as limited Wednesday. DE Eugene Sims (knee) remained limited.