Published November 20, 2014
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Sam Bradford was so nervous about his first NFL practice, he woke up before an alarm clock set for 6 a.m.
Add in a bubbly enthusiasm evident by his high five with offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur during the opening practice of a three-day rookie minicamp Friday, and the St. Louis Rams have to feel pretty good about investing the first pick of the draft on the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback from Oklahoma.
Bradford's summary: "It was a blast out there today."
After the first of two practices Friday, coach Steve Spagnuolo complimented Bradford's poise and take-charge attitude. The Rams issued abbreviated playbooks to their draft picks last weekend, and Spagnuolo said Bradford appeared to have absorbed everything.
Bradford refused to campaign for the starting job and Spagnuolo was noncommittal about the Rams' plans for easing him into the lineup, judging that question way too premature.
"You're way ahead of me," Spagnuolo said. "We don't have to play a game yet. Nothing preconceived."
That's fine with Bradford.
"I think it's way too early to start making those type of statements," Bradford said. "I've only gone through one practice and I've only seen a very small portion of the playbook. All I know is I'm going to show up and help this team win."
It was much easier to take charge with this group, too. The Rams invited 67 players to the minicamp, including 11 draft picks, but most players will be headed home after the tryout.
"I wanted to see his command of the huddle, his interaction with teammates," Spagnuolo said. "He's not around a bunch of veterans, so that's another test. He kind of stepped to the forefront, you could tell he was the guy that's done this before."
Bradford made a one-of-the-guys impression on the other draft picks when he texted them all to say he was glad to be teammates. Then he impressed them on the field.
"All in all it's like we've got a connection," said wide receiver Mardy Gilyard, a fourth-round pick from Cincinnati. "We're developing a nice little relationship."
Offensive lineman Rodger Saffold, the Rams' second-round pick out of Indiana, is Bradford's roommate for the weekend. Bradford even scores high on that account.
"Oh, he's very clean," Saffold said. "The first day is usually the day where, you know, 'Maybe I shouldn't have had this guy,' but he's real cool, real chill."
Shurmur and quarterbacks coach Dick Curl gave Bradford some telephone tutoring earlier this week, helping to ease the tension before his first professional workout. First workout since a season-ending shoulder injury last October, too.
"I was definitely a little nervous," Bradford said. "It's been a long time and I really wasn't sure how it was going to go as far as the schedule and the practice.
"Once I got out there, I felt really comfortable. I really enjoyed it, it was just fun being out there with the guys."
The Rams, 1-15 last year and 6-42 the last three seasons, are pinning their long-term hopes on Bradford, who's wearing jersey No. 8.
Two of the other rookies are wearing jersey numbers that used to belong to a pair of seven-time Pro Bowlers. Saffold has No. 76 (Orlando Pace) and Gilyard has No. 81 (Torry Holt).
"Why set the bar low?" Gilyard said. "Have me reach out for something I need to get. It keeps you hungry, keeps you wanting to be better, and be better and be better and be better and be more better and be more better, and eventually be the best."