"It's a lot different," Bradford said, when asked about the absence of Jackson's presence. "Not only in the huddle, in the locker room, in the meeting room. Obviously he was an extremely important part of this offense and this organization for a long time, not only for what he did on the field, but for his leadership skills off the field and in the locker room. There's a void right now. I think it's part of my duty going into my fourth year to step up and help fill that void."
And how will he do that? "Just being more vocal," he said. "Year two, I feel a lot more comfortable in the system. I know how things are supposed to look and the way I want things to be run. The depths, the details, just saying, 'Stedman (Bailey), Tavon (Austin, hey, this is how that route has to be.' Pulling guys in the film room. Watching the previous day's practice with them. All those things where I'm taking control of the offense."
Bailey and Austin are rookies, and join a young offense that also added free-agent tight end Jared Cook.
Said Bradford, "We're much faster now. There's a lot more speed on the field. I think we're all hoping that's going to lead to more explosive plays. I think if you look at our offense in the past, we've really had to grind out touchdown drives because we haven't been able to create those explosive plays. You take some of the guys that we have on the field now and they can turn a five-yard hitch route into an 80-yard touchdown.
"I think that's extremely exciting. It's going to allow us to open up the playbook probably a little bit more, just with their speed we can get creative, figure out how we're going to use them. But, I think that's the big thing is we're still trying to figure out how to best use everyone's abilities that we have now."
Most important is that, for the first time since being the first overall choice in the 2010 draft, Bradford is in the same offensive system for the second consecutive season.
He was emphatic in saying how that feels.
"Amazing," Bradford said. "t just feels so much better knowing the details of this offense and actually having the ability to go over and coach our young guys. When you're trying to learn an offense for the first time, it's really hard to go over and coach some of the young guys because you're still trying to figure everything out, too. You don't know the exact details. You watch it on film from how someone else runs it, so you think you have an idea how you want it run, but until you actually get out there and rep it multiple times, you really don't have that feel.
"Now, obviously, we had the opportunity to go back and watch all our cutups from last year, all the concepts that we had success with, all the concepts that we struggled with. We talked about the areas that we need to be improved, the things that we need to do, and I can take all those points from those meetings with Schotty (offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer) and with 'Cig' (quarterbacks coach Frank Cignetti) to the young guys now. 'Hey, we studied this concept last year. We think the key for it succeeding this year is we've really got to get our depth on this route or the timing's got to be better.' So, it's just a lot more detail oriented now that we're in year two."
Finally, when asked about Austin, Bradford said, "He's fast. He's quick. He's smart. He gets open. He's done a great job so far. We've thrown a lot at him. The first two installs, these two OTAs, it's amazing how much quicker you can go the second year in the system. Everyone's not seeing something for the first time and these rookies are being asked to keep up with the veterans. I've been really impressed with the young guys and the way they've been able to handle things mentally.
"I think that's something that's extremely important, because it doesn't matter how talented you are physically if you can't handle it mentally. I think the young guys that we have in here have done a great job and I expect them to continue to get better."
--Rams quarterback Sam Bradford has been at practice this week as the team held its first OTAs of the offseason. But his mind was in Oklahoma City, his hometown, where the devastating tornado hit Monday afternoon.
In an interview with Clark Judge of cbssports.com, Bradford said, "It was definitely difficult (at practice) today in the sense that I was constantly checking my phone, and I found out two of our strength coaches at the University of Oklahoma lost their homes yesterday to the tornado. So you're constantly checking your phone and making sure they're not finding any more bodies and making sure everyone's been accounted for. So, yeah, my mind's definitely been there most of the day today."
In fact, Bradford was home Monday when the twister wreaked havoc on the southern part of the city. He lives north of Oklahoma City.
"We didn't get hit," he said, "but just watching it live on TV was really hard. Then, seeing the photos that have come out. Prayers go out to everyone's who affected by the tornado. It's just really sad. It's just hard to see that happen. You never think it can happen at home, and then to see something like that -- in a city and a state that I love dearly -- it's really hard to look at."
Bradford knows Moore, Okla., well. He said, "We played Westmoore every year when in I was in high school. They were in our district. It's a place that, going from Oklahoma City to Norman (the home the University of Oklahoma), I've probably driven through a thousand times in my life. It's literally right south of downtown Oklahoma City. It's really close to home.
"Watching it yesterday; just hearing the TV people trying to call out locations where they thought the tornado was going to hit so they could try to get people out ... I mean, the list goes on. You hear about the Warren Theater, which is one of the nicer theaters in Oklahoma City, and places like that, places where I have been before. Yeah, I knew about everywhere that tornado was."
Bradford has memories of the 1999 tornado that also hit Moore.
"People still talk about the May 3 tornado in '99," he said. "It's something that's constantly brought up. Whenever another storm comes through, it's always compared to that storm. So it's something that is definitely ingrained in that city and in that community. That's why it's just so hard to watch happen all over again.
"I remember driving through Moore after that tornado came through, and it was maybe a year or two before things were back to normal back there. You could drive through it months after it happened and literally see the track that the tornado left -- and that's something that our city and that community thought they were never going to have to go through again.
"I'm sure there are people living in Moore who survived the '99 tornado that thought they would never have to go through another tornado like that, and, then, what is it -- 14 years later? -- almost the same track and another tornado of monster proportions rips through that community. It's hard to see that.
"You hope no one ever has to go through a natural disaster like that, and to have people go through it two times in a fairly short amount of time ... I mean, your thoughts and prayers just go out to those people."
Bradford said he plans to go back after the Rams' OTAs are over and do whatever he can to help.
He said, "When I get back there, if there's anything I can do to help I'll be more than willing."
Tight end Lance Kendricks experienced swelling in his right knee during workouts last month and had arthroscopic surgery. Wearing a brace on his leg, Kendricks is not participating in OTAs.
Wide receiver Brian Quick did not practice Thursday. Coach Jeff Fisher said, "He woke up this morning with a tight hamstring, so we just backed him down today."
Safety Matt Daniels, who spent the final eight games of the 2012 season on injured reserve with a knee injury, ran on the side during practice Thursday and appeared to be running well.
Recently signed undrafted free-agent tackle Thomas Brown was on the field for Wednesday OTA, all 6-0 and at least 385 pounds of him. Brown is listed that way on the roster, but coach Jeff Fisher admitted he weighed in at 403 pounds.
Fisher added, "We had him in for the tryout (at rookie minicamp) and he had some issues that we had to clear up from a physical standpoint. He got them put behind him. We worked him out on both sides of the ball - defensive line, offensive line - and we felt like his best position would be right tackle. 'Bou' (offensive line coach Paul Boudreau) said he'd love to have him."
As for his day went, Fisher said, "He got through practice. He's a defensive lineman that we've converted over to offensive line. We just have to get the camera, the tape from the top of the tower. He might be able to block some kicks."
Rams second-year guard Rokevious Watkins has been suspended for the first game of the 2013 season for violating the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse.
Watkins is permitted to participate in all of the team's offseason activities as well as training camp and preseason games. The suspension takes effect at the cutdown to 53 players.
Players in the NFL testing program that advance to the suspension stage are usually suspended for four games. Thus, it seems unlikely that Watkins violated that portion of the policy.
For violations of the law, including alcohol, the commissioner can and has imposed suspensions of fewer than four games.
Watkins was selected in the fifth round of the 2012 draft and reported to the team's offseason program out of shape. He worked his way into playing shape in training camp and was expected to see playing time at left guard.
However, he suffered an ankle in the season opener and was subsequently placed on injured reserve, missing the remainder of the season. This year, he was expected to compete with Chris Williams and Shelley Smith for the open spot at left guard.
After Thursday's OTA work, coach Jeff Fisher Fisher somewhat surprisingly had a strong opinion on Watkins' suspension.
Said Fisher, "I'll say this: we've been aware of it for quite some time. I'm not going to go into specifics of the suspension. We respect the league's decision, but personally and respectfully, I disagree with the suspension and the circumstances regarding the suspension. That's my opinion, but we'll honor the league's decision."
Watkins, while saying he appreciates the support of Fisher, wouldn't go into details of what caused the suspension or even acknowledge whether he appealed it.
"I made a mistake," Watkins said, "and I take responsibility for my mistake."
Fisher said the entire offense and defense is being installed during OTAs.
He said, "Our plan is to completely install everything and the players are aware of it. We're going to install everything from the first snap of a game with first-and-10 to the last play of the game where you've got a Hail Mary pass and everything in between. We'll do that (until) we complete the OTAs and then we'll come back again and repeat it again at training camp. They'll have the complete installation twice."
"To win the Super Bowl, obviously. That's what we set out to do every year. You never go into a year thinking, 'Man, if we could go 8-8, that would be awesome,' because if you do, you might as well not even play the game. When we started this offseason - what is it, six weeks ago now? - we came in with the mindset that we are putting in the work each day to build the pieces to win the Super Bowl. That's what our goal is. Obviously first we need to win our division, which is the NFC West, take care of business in the playoffs and get there, but that's our goal every year."- QB Sam Bradford on what his goal is for the 2013 season.
With numerous roster spots to fill after the draft to reach the offseason limit of 90 players, the Rams got very busy signing undrafted free agents.
Of the 30 undrafted players signed, the Rams spent $75,600 in signing bonuses, with $60,000 of that going to five players. Tackle Braden Brown and safety Cody Davis each received $15,000 bonuses, while running back Benny Cunningham, and linebackers Phillip Steward and Jonathan Stewart each were paid $10,000.
Seventeen players signed did not receive a signing bonus. Following is the bonus allocation for each player.
T Braden Brown, $15,000; S Cody Davis, $15,000, RB Benny Cunningham, $10,000; LB Phillip Steward, $10,000;, LB Jonathan Stewart, $10,000; FB Eric Stevens, $5,000; WR C.J. Akins, $2,000; DE Gerald Rivers, $2,000; CB Darren Woodard, $2,000; TE Philip Lutzenkirchen, $3,100; S Cannon Smith, $1,000; CB Robert Steeples, $500.
Players that did not receive a bonus were LB Ray-Ray Armstrong, K Brett Baer, LB Daren Bates, WR Emory Blake, WR Andrew Helmick, T Sean Hooey, LS Jorgen Hus, QB Tim Jenkins, LB Joseph LeBeau, G Kenny Saia, DT Garrett Goebel, DT Al Lapuaho, CB Andre Martin, WR Scott Pillar, CB Drew Thomas, S Don Unamba, DE R.J. Washington.
A closer look at the Rams' picks:
Round 1/8 - Tavon Austin, WR/KR, 5-9, 174, West Virginia
The Rams gave up a second-round pick to move up eight spots and take arguably the best playmaker in the draft. Austin will play in the spot, lineup at running, return kicks, and who knows what else.
Round 1/30 - Alec Ogletree, LB, 6-2, 242, Georgia
Slipped to the end of the round because of character concerns, Rams coaches see him as another Keith Bulluck, who played for several of them, including Jeff Fisher, with the Titans. He gets to the ball-carrier fast and aggressively.
Round 3/71 - T.J. McDonald, S, 6-2, 219, Southern Cal
He has played deep and in the box, and the Rams believe his versatility will fit the defense. Exhibits explosive athleticism.
Round 3/92 - Stedman Bailey, WR, 5-10, 193, West Virginia
Has excellent body control and simply makes plays. Bailey led the nation with 25 touchdowns last season, and in 226 career touches never fumbled.
Round 4/113 - Barrett Jones, C/G, 6-4, 306, Alabama
Everything you want in an offensive lineman. Physical and tough, plays through injuries and is so smart, he often helped with the game plan analyzing defenses with the coaches. Started 50 games at three different positions.
Round 5/149 - Brandon McGee, CB, 5-11, 193, Miami
Considered a late bloomer, developmental player, but he will get the coaching with the Rams. Has excellent speed. Was a team captain.
Round 5/160 - Zac Stacy, RB, 5-8, 216, Vanderbilt
Short, but strong, with great tangibles and runs tough. Will be just right for apparent Rams committee at running back. Was a team captain.
LB Mario Haggan was a solid backup and also contributed on special teams. Unless he gets a better offer somewhere else, he might return on a one-year deal.
DT Trevor Laws never got on the field because of an injury suffered in training camp. He probably won't be re-signed.
LB Rocky McIntosh added veteran presence on the strong side, but would only be back on a one-year contract.
T Barry Richardson played better than outsiders expected on the right side, and was one of only two Rams offensive linemen to start all 16 games. The Rams will probably try to re-sign him, but it is also likely there be competition for the job.
(not tendered offers)
LB Justin Cole (not tendered as RFA) contributed on special teams, and might return for the minimum salary.
C Tim Barnes: ERFA; $480,000/1 yr.
QB Kellen Clemens: UFA; $870,000/1 yr, $30,000 SB.
DT Jermelle Cudjo: Potential RFA; $1.805M/2 yrs, $350,000 SB.
DE William Hayes: UFA; $10.25M/3 yrs, $3.75M SB/$5.75M guaranteed.
TE Mike McNeill: ERFA; $555,000/1 yr.
S Darian Stewart: RFA tendered at $1.323M with no compensation; $1.323M/1 yr.
G/T Chris Williams: UFA; terms unknown.
TE Jared Cook: UFA Titans; $35.1M/5 yrs, $5M SB/$19M guaranteed.
T Jake Long: UFA Dolphins; $34M/4 yrs, $5M SB/$20M potentially guaranteed/$12M fully guaranteed).
TE Zach Potter: Not tendered as RFA by Jaguars; $630,000/1 yr.
WR Danny Amendola: UFA Patriots; $31M/5 yrs, $6M SB/$10M SB.
S Craig Dahl: UFA 49ers; $5.25M/3 yrs, $700,000 SB.
CB Bradley Fletcher: UFA Eagles; $5.25M/2 yrs, $1.6M SB/$2.35M guaranteed.
WR Brandon Gibson: UFA Dolphins; $9.78M/3 yrs, $3M SB/$3.75M guaranteed.
T Wayne Hunter (released).
RB Steven Jackson: UFA Falcons; $12M/3 yrs, $3.5M SB/$4M guaranteed.
S Quintin Mikell (released).
TE Matthew Mulligan (released).
WR Steve Smith: UFA Buccaneers; $715,000/1 yr.
G/C Robert Turner: UFA Titans; $1.5M/1 yr, $250,000 SB/$250,000 RB.