Unlike many who came down with Johnny Football fever, quarterback Sam Bradford never took the bait. He knew better, based on first-hand information from two impeccably reliable sources — the Rams’ general manager and head coach.
“(From) the end of last year, I was in communication with Les (Snead) and Jeff (Fisher), and they made it very clear what their plan was,” Bradford said, in his first comments to reporters since the draft. “Throughout the offseason, they continued to make that clear. So I knew what my position on this team was.”
So when all the rumors of the Rams being interested in picking Johnny Manziel started flying a couple of weeks before the draft, Bradford was able to shrug them off.
“Like I said, I had been in pretty good communication with Les and Jeff, and they had made it pretty clear what their intention was, so I really wasn’t too worried,” Bradford said. “I pretty much knew what was gonna happen.”
So when Fisher told a packed house of season-ticket holders on the night before the draft that “Sam’s our guy” — with Bradford standing right next to him — there was no sigh of relief, no lump in the throat, no misty eyes by the quarterback. The moment had no special meaning to Bradford because he had known the support was there all along.
“But it’s always nice to hear those things,” Bradford said.
Manziel obviously didn’t end up with the Rams. In fact, the team didn’t take a quarterback until Round 6, when it selected Southern Methodist’s Garrett Gilbert at No. 214 overall.
And Bradford is back on the practice field, although there wasn’t much to see Thursday at Rams Park.
Other than taking part in a couple of walk-through periods, throwing a handful of passes flat-footed, Bradford watched. And watched some more.
“You’ll be able to see him (today),” Fisher said following the team’s second organized team activities practice of the spring but the first open to the media. “We’re gonna have him participate in about half the OTAs.”
That would be five practices. Bradford took part in one seven-on-seven passing period on Tuesday, the first OTA session of the offseason. Today, he will take part in two seven-on-seven sessions.
“He looks really good,” Fisher said. “He’s throwing the ball well. We think it’s smart to keep him out of traffic right now in the ‘team’ stuff. But he’s doing well.”
That means Bradford won’t take part in any 11-on-11 sessions, in which there are pass rushers at least in the neighborhood. Granted, there is no contact allowed with the quarterback under any practice scenario, be it OTAs, training camp, or the regular season. But why risk an unnecessary accident?
“He’s moving around great,” Fisher said. “We’ve got a ‘pitch count’ on him — not only his arm but his drops. He’s doing all the drops and his footwork’s really good.”
Bradford met with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer a few weeks ago to map out a participation plan for the OTAs.
“We kind of looked at the different OTAs, and what’s going on in each OTA, and what we felt was most important,” Bradford said. “The ones that he thought I needed to be a part of and I thought I needed to be a part of.”
So as the Rams install their offense, an annual rite of spring, what is being done on each particular day was factored into the equation. As he heads down the stretch of his rehab from knee surgery last fall, Bradford has missed some work with a young receivers corps that also includes newcomer Kenny Britt, a former Tennessee Titan.
“I feel pretty good about where our chemistry is,” Bradford said. “Obviously, it probably has limited the amount of times that we’ve been able to get on the field together. But I think that’s why me and ‘Schotty’ got together a few weeks ago and talked about what we really needed to work on, and making sure that I’m part of those days.”
Bradford says he feels like he can “pretty much do everything” physically, pointing out that he has been doing some straight-line running.
“Everything’s on schedule and I’m feeling good,” he said.
But as is frequently the case during any rehab process, some days are better than others. When asked if he was experiencing any discomfort or swelling in the knee, Bradford replied:
“You know, with anything there’s good days and there’s bad days. Even when you’re healthy, you have good days with your arm or bad days with your arm, and now it’s kind of the same thing with my knee.
“I wake up some days and feel great. Other days I feel like I’ve had an ACL repair. I’ve never gone through it before, but to be honest throughout the process I’ve felt really good and felt better than what I anticipated.”
One byproduct of the knee rehabilitation is that Bradford has noticeably improved his upper-body strength.
“Yes, while he’s been rehabbing, he spent some extra time on the upper body,” Fisher said, adding with a chuckle, “I think he thinks he looks pretty good now.”
The extra muscle up top has had another sidelight, according to Bradford — better arm strength on what already was considered a pretty strong arm.
“I just feel like there’s a little more pop on my ball now,” Bradford said.