Sunday, that optimism vanished. Fisher confirmed that Bradford suffered a torn ACL in his left knee — the same ACL he tore last October, which ended his 2013 season — and will be done for the season.
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Bradford suffered the injury on a first-quarter incompletion Saturday against the Cleveland Browns. He limped off the field with the aid of two trainers and was ruled out of the game.
This is a season-changer for the Rams, who quietly were gaining confidence that they could stand toe-to-toe with NFC West heavyweights with a healthy and efficent Bradford at the helm, backed by a solid run game, a new weapon in Kenny Britt and one of the best defensive front sevens in the NFL.
Shaun Hill, who is considered one of the NFL's better backup quarterbacks, is now vaulted to the starting position. But he has a middling 13-13 record as a starter, hasn't started a game since 2010 and might have peaked already at age 34.
On the flip side, Hill has completed a respectable 62 percent of his career passes and has a 41-23 TD-INT ratio that is better than that of Bradford (59-38).
Behind Hill, there are few tempting options. The Rams have journeyman Austin Davis and sixth-round pick Garrett Gilbert, who has struggled largely to date.
“We move forward as a football team," Fisher said. "Shaun is our guy. We brought him here. He’s got experience. We’ve got all the confidence in the world in him. We have, around our quarterback position right now, probably as good of talent as we’ve had since we came here. Shaun is excited about that, and I know he’ll benefit from that.”
When Bradford was hurt a year ago, the Rams tried to sign Saints practice-squad QB Ryan Griffin, but the Saints thwarted their efforts by creating a roster spot and convincing him to stay. Perhaps those teams could strike up some trade talk, or maybe a team such as the Minnesota Vikings might be willing to part with former first-rounder Christian Ponder for cheap. Incidentally, the Rams and Vikings meet in Week 1 in St. Louis.
Another team with a quarterback surplus is the Kansas City Chiefs, who have starter Alex Smith, backup Chase Daniel, No. 3 Tyler Bray and 2014 fifth-round pick Aaron Murray. The Rams could pry loose Daniel, who starred at Mizzou and might be a bit rich for the cap-strapped Chiefs, for a low cost.
And, of course, anytime a quarterback goes down, we have to mention you know who ... Tim Tebow. He's unemployed and has made it clear he hasn't given up on his NFL dream. Is Tebow a great fit? Perhaps not, but Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer — who did not coach Tebow with the Jets — could rebuild the offense around the run game.
The Rams almost certainly will consider moving on from Bradford in 2015, coming off back-to-back seasons with torn ACLs and with a salary cap figure of $16.58 million. It would be the final year of the six-year, $78 million contract — with $50 million guaranteed — that Bradford signed after being selected No. 1 overall by the Rams back in 2010.
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