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Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Reflections, projections for Sam Bradford

By Mike Sando

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- This NFL stuff is all new for Sam Bradford.

Looking through the St. Louis Rams' roster, however, I noticed a long list of teammates with experience breaking in highly drafted quarterbacks.

They offered insights into their experiences and shared their thoughts on Bradford, the first player chosen in the 2010 NFL draft.

A sampling:

Vince Young 2006
According to Jacob Bell, Vince Young's demeanor in the huddle is different than Sam Bradford's.
Jacob Bell, Rams guard

Played with: Vince Young and the 2006 Tennessee Titans

Background: Young started 13 games as a rookie. The team finished 8-8 overall. Young completed 51 percent of his passes with 12 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and a 66.7 rating

Bell's take: "We were 8-8 that year. We relied on just minimizing mistakes. Vince is a different type guy than Bradford, though. Vince has a lot of, I don't know how you would say it, potential to be this great quarterback. I think Bradford is more developed as far as knowing the game at the quarterback position. But Vince has a lot of things Bradford doesn't have. Bradford has things that he doesn't have.

"In the huddle, they are different. Vince would come in and be a little bit more nervous. He couldn't recite the plays as well. We would have to finish his sentences for him sometimes, whereas Bradford comes in and he's Joe Cool. He controls the huddle, real serious, real calm, knows the play verbatim. Vince might come in a little looser. He might be joking around, laughing. Two totally different guys.

"At the end of the day, they are both winners who came from winning programs. It's our job to keep him cool. You can tell when quarterbacks get hit and they get flustered, they are not the same guy. They are not cool, calm and collected. They are not joking around. They are just different people. That is a big thing for young quarterbacks, knowing they are protected, knowing that they don't have to carry the game, that we have a running back in Steven Jackson and in Tennessee we had Travis Henry, Chris Brown -- solid running backs and a good defense."


Billy Bajema, Rams tight end

Played with: Alex Smith and the 2005 San Francisco 49ers

Background: Smith started seven games as a rookie. The team finished 4-12 overall. Smith completed 50.9 percent of his passes with one touchdown, 11 interceptions and a 40.8 rating

Bajema's take: "Sometimes those things are so hard to put a finger on. Alex was smart and threw the ball well. I just think as an offense we struggled and it took us a while to get it going. To put a finger on why, it's tough to do. The most important thing is, as a team, rallying behind those guys, giving them the support. Every quarterback coming in faces a little bit of a learning curve. Some guys pick it up faster than others and are successful faster than others. Offensively, for the first couple years I was there, we were just kind of getting going.

"[Bradford] is going to be very good. Everybody is real excited about him. He puts it on the money, he is smart, he is a guy that everybody feels like is going to be a really good player. He's not a guy that is real loud and in people's faces, but he does a good job taking command when he is in the huddle, establishing who is in charge of the huddle. Everybody respects him and I think that is what is important, to just take command. He does a good job of that."


Jason Brown, Rams center

Played with: Joe Flacco and the 2008 Baltimore Ravens

Joey Flacco
Getting quality reps in the preseason helped Joe Flacco as a rookie quarterback.
Background: Flacco started all 16 games as a rookie. The team finished 11-5 overall. Flacco completed 60 percent of his passes with 14 touchdowns, 12 interceptions and an 80.3 rating

Brown's take: "When we were in Baltimore with Flacco, they kept the starters in every preseason game in 2008 for three quarters, even the last one, when you expect, 'Oh, yeah, the starters, you go out there for a series.' No. We were out there for three quarters to make sure that young quarterback gets the quality reps and the protection he deserves so he can develop. You cannot get enough quality reps because when the season comes, there is no slowing down. That season, opening kickoff, is going to be there before you know it. That is our main focus now, making sure we get Sam some quality reps, same thing we did in Baltimore.

"The main thing I see in Joe, the same thing I see in Sam, it's just the poise that they bring. Of course, there is the great expectations for these highly drafted young quarterbacks coming out. There is a lot of pressure on them to get in early and compete. But yet I have seen both of them handle it in stride. Sam is a very, very, very mature young man. Very mature. The only thing I had to get on Sam about, and I kind of didn't want to tell him about it because I knew he would eventually break it, the first time, earlier this summer, when we were getting under center, I knew that Sam was nervous. You couldn't see it on his face, but I knew he was nervous because when he got under center and put his hand underneath my rear end, his hand was shaking. It was quivering. It was shaking. And of course, I didn't say anything, but it's a very awkward feeling for me as well when someone has their hand shaking underneath your rear end. It's funny, I'm telling you this, but I still haven't told it to Sam. But of course that was just like some of the first day, welcome to the NFL jitters. He hasn't done that for quite some time. He's human. He definitely is human.

"And us as offensive linemen, teammates, friends, the only thing we can do, the best thing we can do is to do our jobs the best that we can to make sure that he is comfortable back in the pocket and allowing him to develop as a young quarterback properly. That is the same pressure we put on us in Baltimore."


James Hall, Rams defensive end

Played with: Joey Harrington and the 2002 Detroit Lions

Background: Harrington started 12 games as a rookie. The team finished 3-13 overall. Harrington completed 50.1 percent of his passes with 12 touchdowns, 16 interceptions and a 59.9 rating

Hall's take: "Relative to Harrington, I think Sam probably has better God-given tools than Joey. Joey is a great guy, very professional. Sam is a great guy, very professional. From what I've heard about Sam, he has a little bit of a killer instinct. He is a competitor. He has come along real well in training camp. The sky is the limit for him. He has an accurate arm and a strong arm and so far has been making smart decisions. The guy is very confident, especially for a young guy. He seems very poised, doesn't seem rattled by anything, shaken, and that is always a great sign."


Hank Fraley, Rams backup center

Played with: Brady Quinn and the 2007 Cleveland Browns

Background: Quinn started no games as a rookie. The team finished 10-6 overall. Quinn completed 3 of 8 passes for 45 yards and a 56.8 rating

Fraley's take: "Sam, I know he is doing everything right. He is preparing himself, studying, he is poised in the huddle, he is doing it the right way. That is all you can ask. He is making the right reads. I think he is going to be a very good quarterback for a long time in this league based on what I have seen.

"He just comes out and works hard, he gets in his playbook, he is doing the film study, he gets with A.J. [Feeley], he gets with his coaches. He may have a good day today, but he wants to make sure he proves it tomorrow. He wants to stay consistent and that is how you become a better player. Just working with him, being in there at center with him, looking at blitzes and stuff like that, he wants to understand why they are blitzing that way or why they are lined up like that and what they can do out of it. Those are things he has asked me."


Fred Robbins, Rams defensive tackle

Played with: Eli Manning and the 2004 New York Giants

Background: Manning started seven games as a rookie. The team finished 6-10 overall. Manning completed 48.2 percent of his passes with six touchdowns, nine interceptions and a 55.4 rating

Robbins' take: "Sam is doing some good things, stepping right in, making good throws -- things you do not expect from a rookie. He’s got a lot of eyes on him, but he stepped in and did some good things. What surprised me was just how quick he is picking up to the NFL tempo, the NFL speed and everything that way. He’s stepping in and doing a good job and the things he does on the practice field make it seem like he is not a rookie. We have a veteran [in Feeley] and one of the best running backs in the game in Steven Jackson. That allows him to take a little pressure off himself. He has shown [in practice] he really can play. Once he gets that game speed against another team and gets that feel for it, he’s going to do just fine."