After getting a good look at Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford during a 2008 season in which he put up numbers most non-spread quarterbacks would find inconceivable and watching him recover from two 2009 shoulder injuries, I opined that if he stayed healthy and his work ethic matched his talent, Bradford would be the NFL's best quarterback within three years of the day he was drafted. It wasn't a hard call to make — a good glimpse of Bradford's freaky deep accuracy put me in mind of the evolutionary version of Tom Brady.
And when Bradford showed up at the 2010 scouting combine with 15 pounds of additional muscle, he put any questions about that work ethic to bed for good. It's why he was taken first overall in the 2010 draft by the St. Louis Rams, it's why he got the Rams close to the playoffs in his rookie season despite an almost comical lack of healthy receiver talent, and it's why he was voted the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year in a landslide.
With the lockout as his backdrop, Bradford is now taking the step that only the true greats of the game ever manage — true team leader. When the Rams began team-implemented workouts on Monday, Bradford was the one drawing plays up on cards for his teammates, the work that a quality control coach would do. Bradford had no issue with it — he figured that because the quarterback has to know more of the playbook than any other player, he would be in the best position to get everything organized from a schematic perspective.
"He would call out a play and he would also break it down and explain it to all the other guys and the young guys who were there for the first time," guard Jacob Bell told Mike Sando of ESPN.com after the first practice. "He's really doing it big. They are really breaking down and dissecting the plays, going over them, had the cards drawn up, looked pretty good out there."
Not only has Bradford been organizing the practices, he's also taken the step of reaching out to players on other teams familiar with the offensive systems drawn up by new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Bradford told Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that while he'd prefer not to name the players he's been "leaning on," he made it very clear that he feels great about the level of involvement and intensity in these practices. "It really wasn't hard to get everyone involved, either," Bradford said. "I've heard stories of other teams having problems getting guys to come in and set certain dates. But I sent out an email to guys and almost everyone said, 'Yep, I'm on board.'"
Guard Hank Fraley jokingly told Burwell to "Just say that we are hopelessly unorganized. Tell everyone that we have no clue what we're doing," but with Bradford as an emerging leader, there's little chance of that.
You want to know the name of the NFL's next Manning, Brady, Brees or Rodgers? Start in St. Louis.