- Nick Wagoner, ESPN Staff Writer
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EARTH CITY, Mo. – Never let it be said that Sam Bradford doesn’t care about football.
Through his three and a half seasons in the NFL, the St. Louis Rams quarterback has gone through the ringer that goes with playing his position. That means nitpicking everything he does and everything he doesn’t do.
But Bradford’s commitment should never have been in question before, and it should never become an issue in the future.
For evidence, one need only watch Bradford’s meeting with the media on Wednesday afternoon. Asked about how difficult it was for him to stand in street clothes on the sideline and watch as his team played against Seattle on "Monday Night Football," Bradford was clearly emotional.
“It was tougher than expected, to be honest,” Bradford said. “I thought after a couple years ago missing a few games with my ankle I would be kind of prepared for it, but until you get out there and stand on the sideline and have to watch, it doesn’t really hit you. Then after the game, I think that’s the toughest. It’s kind of a helpless feeling. There’s really not much you can do. So it was pretty tough.”
Those words on the page might not fully convey the despondence the was clearly visible in Bradford, who paused a couple of times in an effort to hold himself together.
Bradford has never been one to show much emotion, on or off the field. Now that he finds himself in a new role, one in which he can’t play, it’s a bit harder for him to keep it hidden.
Many injured players disappear for long stretches after their seasons come to an end. Some prefer to rehabilitate away from the team facility or simply go home to try not to think about what they might be missing.
Not Bradford. It was almost shocking to see him limping on his gimpy left knee to watch practice from the sideline last week, only days after he suffered a torn ACL. He was on the sideline again Monday night, offering help to his replacement, Kellen Clemens, and he has no intention of leaving to go anywhere other than to have surgery with Dr. James Andrews next Tuesday.
If nothing else, Bradford is a creature of habit. He and Clemens spend countless hours -- early and late -- watching film and talking about the offense.
“You know, I’m basically just here to help,” Bradford said. “It’s kind of a little bit of a role reversal. Kellen has been here a lot for me over the past couple years, and I’m trying to do the same thing for him that he’s done for me. I come in and watch tape; if he asks me my opinion I am happy to give it to him on things that I see at practice. Just little things like that and overall just there for support, really.”
Clemens had served as a mentor and sounding board for Bradford since arriving in 2011 and Bradford is now repaying the favor. It’s a gesture much appreciated by Clemens.
“It’s been awesome, it really has,” Clemens said. “He’s got a wealth of knowledge because he’s played so long. Really, he’s played more games than I have, so it’s been great to be able to bounce stuff off of him.
“I think the fact that he has stuck around and continued to be a major part of our quarterback room, of this offense and of this entire football team just speaks to his character. I can’t say enough great things about Sam Bradford.”
As a team captain, Bradford likely feels a certain responsibility to his offensive teammates to stick around and help in any way he can. He plans to do his rehab in St. Louis and said he doesn’t plan to put any timetable on his return.
Make no mistake, Bradford’s decision to stay around the team isn’t one born solely from a selfless place. He knows there’s nothing else he’d rather be doing, and if he weren’t around the game during the season, he’d probably drive himself crazy.
“There’s no doubt,” Bradford said. “Someone asked me, ‘Why are you still here?’ It’s like, what else am I going to do? Football is all I have. So if I weren’t up here helping out, watching film, I honestly have no idea what I would do. It sure as anything beats sitting at home, watching TV, listening to music. So I’ll be up here until they kick me out.”