Sam Bradford Ready to Showcase Arm
These tosses will be for the money. Literally.
Bradford is the favorite to go No. 1 overall in the NFL draft next month, but first he has to demonstrate that his surgically repaired right shoulder -- yes, the one he throws with -- will be worth the mega-investment and the $75 million-or-so contract that will come with it.
The St. Louis Rams, holders of the first choice by virtue of their 1-15 record last season, will be the most interested observers at Bradford's pro day workout at the school's indoor practice facility. Look for the Rams to flood the zone with decision-makers, from General Manager Billy Devaney, Coach Steve Spagnuola, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, quarterbacks coach Dick Curl and other members of the personnel department.
"Everything you hear about him that's said, it's legit," Spagnuolo said during the league meetings last week in Orlando. "He walks into a room, you can see he's a quarterback. That was impressive to me."
Spagnuolo and other high-brass Rams got to meet Bradford at the scouting combine in Indianapolis last month, but they did not get to see him throw. Nobody did. Bradford was still rehabbing from reconstruction of his AC joint, a procedure performed Oct. 28 by renowned orthopedic surgeon James Andrews. He sat out the workout.
The last pass anyone saw Bradford throw in public was Oct. 17 against Texas.
It's the two-plus seasons of passes before that, however, that have him in this position.
In 29 games at OU, Bradford completed nearly 67 percent of his throws for 8,403 yards, 88 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. His gaudy statistics, though, came to a painful halt in the 2009 season-opening loss against Brigham Young, when Bradford's shoulder was slammed to the turf, forcing him from the game. He returned a month later, passing for 389 yards in a win against Baylor, but reinjured the shoulder the following week on a similar hit against rival Longhorns that left Bradford writhing in pain. That one ended his junior season (and college career, as it turned out).
The past five months have been spent rebuilding the skills that, by most accounts, would have made Bradford the No. 1 overall pick had he declared for the 2009 draft after throwing for school records of 4,720 yards and 50 TDs during his Heisman-winning season. The Sooners lost to Florida in the national championship game that year.
Bradford's OU teammates, including defensive tackle and projected top-three pick Gerald McCoy, had their pro auditions two weeks ago. This Sooners show will be a Bradford-only and throwing-only affair. No running or lifting.
"Obviously there are a lot of questions about my shoulder," Bradford said Feb. 26 at the combine, estimating at that time that his wing was about 85 percent healed. "My arm feels great after I throw. It hasn't started to get sore yet. It feels great and I'm really pleased with where it's at."
Now he has to make the Rams -- or the other quarterback-craving teams (Washington, Cleveland and Buffalo) selecting near the top of the draft -- feel great about it, too. They all love the fact he's bulked up from the 214 pounds to start his junior year to a sturdy 6-foot-4, 236, but a sampling of the pinpoint passes and zing on the ball that defined Bradford's time at OU is what the NFL decision-makers really are looking for.
They've seen it on tape.
"But you've got to get that live," Spagnoulo said.
If the Rams get it Monday, the talks with agent Tom Condon can start getting really serious.
And they can start printing blue-and-gold No. 14 jerseys in the Gateway City.
"I think everybody dreams of being [drafted] No. 1," Bradford said. "I'm gonna show those teams everything I have. But at the end of the day, it's up to them. So I'm really not worried about what I can't control."