St. Louis Rams Gamble on Sam Bradford, Crown Him Starter

September 4th, 2010 – John Ritter

The future begins now for the St. Louis Rams.

Head coach Steve Spagnuolo announced on Saturday that the team’s $70 million man Sam Bradford will be the starter in Week One against the Arizona Cardinals.

“We’re confident. The staff’s confident. The team’s confident,” Spagnuolo said. “It’s well deserved.”

Not to mention being pressured.

The Rams spent their no. 1 overall draft pick on Bradford in April, then made him the richest rookie in NFL history with a six-year, $78-million deal over the summer with $50 million guaranteed. With new management coming in, St. Louis is anxious to rebrand itself and begin building for the future.

A.J. Feeley and Thad Lewis will be the backups. Feely was positioned to be the starter, at least early on, before an injury last week paved the way for Bradford.

“I think we’re very, very fortunate to have A.J. Feeley in this particular role as a backup quarterback,” Spagnuolo said. “He’s a seasoned vet who knows the ins and outs and he can feed that to Sam as he goes along.

“I don’t think anybody in this situation coming in as a rookie quarterback is ready for everything. I’m sure these defensive coordinators will fire things at him.”

“I feel like coach has given me a great opportunity to start next week against Arizona,” Bradford added. “I realize there is a lot of responsibility that comes with that opportunity.”

Bradford won the 2008 Heisman Trophy before taking the Oklahoma Sooners to the National Championship.

He was projected to be the no. 1 overall selection in the ’09 draft, but opted to stay another year and defend his trophy. He only played in three games after separating his shoulder twice last season.

“I think when you can imagine things like (still getting picked no. 1 overall), that’s really what motivated me to work so hard to get myself back in this position,” Bradford said. “I think I did work extremely hard in the offseason rehabbing my shoulder. Now that I have this opportunity, I want to make the most of it.

The righty built up his arm strength over the summer, and will see his first meaningful action in almost a year.

“Definitely. I’m a competitor,” Bradford said. “I sat on the bench last year with an injury and it’s something that I did not enjoy at all. Just to have the opportunity to play football again, it’s really something that I look forward to.”

Bradford is 21 for 28 for 257 yards and three touchdowns in his two preseason starts. Overall, he’s 33 for 55 for 338 yards and no picks.

His most impressive outing came last week against the Baltimore Ravens, where he opened 6 for 6 for 68 yards and a touchdown.

“It was evident in these last three games that he had pretty good control of what we’re doing,” Spagnuolo said. “The team kind of rallies around him.”

The Rams are 50/1 underdogs to win the NFC, according to Bodog, which is tied for second-worst with the Detroit Lions. However, a good rookie campaign by Bradford could have St. Louis making noise for a weak NFC West riddled with toss-up teams.

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