Back to school for Bradford

2012-05-24T12:35:00Z 2012-05-28T22:09:49Z Back to school for BradfordBY KATHLEEN NELSON • knelson@post-dispatch.com > 314-340-8233 stltoday.com

Quarterback Sam Bradford is about as comfortable as can be for a guy coming off a serious ankle injury and learning his third NFL offense in as many seasons.

After five days of organized team activities, known as OTAs, coach Jeff Fisher estimated that he had installed roughly 70 percent of the offense.

"It's getting better every day," Bradford said, flashing a resigned smile. "I've gone through this process a couple times now, so I kind of know how to handle it. We come out, we put in a bunch of new stuff today. It seems like we do that every day. Just try to get better with it. When we come back to review it, hopefully we've had a couple looks at it by then and we're able to handle all the looks that a defense could show us."

In his rookie year, Bradford digested coordinator Pat Shurmur's version of the West Coast offense well enough to be named the league's offensive rookie of the year. When Shurmur left last year to take over as head coach in Cleveland, Bradford had to master Josh McDaniels' offense, without the benefit of a quarterback coach or the months of practice lost during the lockout. So, the extra practice has helped this spring.

"It's just nice to have an offseason to come out here and make mistakes," Bradford said. "You learn from your mistakes. Coaches have been great about that. They're not pressing. They're not screaming. As long as we learn from it, I think we're doing the right thing. It's just good to be out here going through this."

It also helps that this year's version of the offense, under the auspices of coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, bears a vague resemblance to Shurmur's version.

"This offense does have some West Coast wrinkles," Bradford said. "So I think at the base level some of the things that this offense does are similar."

Perhaps more vital has been the addition of quarterbacks coach Frank Cignetti, most recently the offensive coordinator at Rutgers. Last year, McDaniels doubled as QB coach and offensive coordinator.

"Coach Cig has been awesome," Bradford said. "He really knows what he's doing when it comes to coaching quarterbacks. He's all over fundamentals. Every day he points something out on tape, whether it be my drop, my arm angle, something like that. Whereas last year, not having that, I feel like I probably missed some things and probably got a little lazy. Having him here keeps me very sharp with all the little things, which is very nice."

The one carryover from last year that Bradford hopes to jettison for good is the residue from a badly sprained ankle, originally suffered Oct. 16 against Green Bay. He missed six games and finished rehab in March, but soreness lingers.

"It's getting there," he said. "It seems to feel better every week. There's less soreness, more things I can do. I think it's definitely on the right track."

Bradford's willingness to absorb the offense and stay a step ahead on a still-sore leg has provided an ideal example for the Rams' rookie wide receivers learning their first pro offense.

"He makes everything a lot easier for us," said Chris Givens, the Rams' fourth-round pick out of Wake Forest. "He's everything I heard about and more. He makes every throw, and he's always on point. He's just a great leader. He does a good job of picking us up after practice, working on the things where we had mistakes. Even during practice, he's there in our ear telling us 'Good job,' whether it was a bad play or a good play."

With three offenses in three seasons, at least Bradford has learned how to learn.

"Just being comfortable with the league now and how these days are going to go, I just feel better," Bradford said. "Even though we're not running the same offense, I've seen things. I feel more comfortable making calls, speaking up. I think it definitely has gotten easier as far as that goes, but it's back to square one learning this offense. So, there's a lot of hard work to put in, a lot of time."

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