Sam Bradford’s time with the Rams, considering he was once the No. 1 overall pick and assumed savior of the franchise, ended quietly.
He missed all of the 2014 season with a torn ACL and then was traded to Philadelphia for Nick Foles the following March, and in the four years since, not only has the coaching staff and roster turned over, the team doesn’t even play in the same city. Really, the only real echo of that part of Bradford’s career is his draft status, which plays a small role in Sunday’s game between Bradford’s current team the Cardinals and his former employer.
In August, Rams defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh – apparently still smarting somewhat as the No. 2 selection in that 2010 draft when Bradford went No. 1 – noted that he was looking forward to playing Bradford and the Cardinals this season.
“I always mark the calendar when I have Sam Bradford on there,” Suh said in a podcast, adding, “I’ll definitely try to hit him as hard as I can.”
Bradford, asked about the quote Wednesday, wore a small smile. “Great,” he said.
“I mean, I get it,” Bradford said. “I think everyone wants to hit me. That’s kind of how it goes.”
There were plenty of things that need to be fixed for the Cardinals coming off their struggles in Week One, but one is Bradford, who ended up much more inaccurate than he had been all offseason and preseason. That didn’t help an offense that had ran just 13 plays from scrimmage in the first half.
Bradford completed just 3-of-7 passes for 11 yards in the initial two quarters, although he hit on 17-of-27 passes in the second half (for 142 yards). That’s still not close to the 70-plus percent completion rate he hit in his last full season of 2016.
After watching his video, Bradford said his lone interception – a high pass that was picked off by the centerfield-playing safety – was forced, noting Larry Fitzgerald was open underneath on the play. Patience, he said, even in the face of a big deficit, is crucial.
“When you’re not 100 percent confident in throws, they tend not to be accurate because you don’t feel great about it,” Bradford said. “A couple throws I made, in my mind, I was like, ‘I don’t know if I should be making this throw’ and then you still make it.”
Coach Steve Wilks said the Cardinals are still learning each other, on both sides of the ball. The trust is not all the way there, which led to some issues. Bradford sounded relieved there were not any “major, glaring breakdowns” offensively, although whatever the myriad small issues might have been, they were backbreaking.
Wilks, however, said he was pleased with how the veteran quarterback returned to work this week.
“He’s a little disappointed in his performance, which most of those guys in that locker room are,” Wilks said. “They should be. The way he came back today, along with the other guys, gives me a lot of hope.”
That’s all Bradford is thinking about for Sunday, the challenge of playing one of the best defenses in the league, and perhaps a way to sidestep Suh and the rugged Rams’ pass rush. Any emotions about playing his former team for the first time are basically absent.
“Not really,” Bradford said. “If it would’ve happened sooner, maybe there would be more.
“There’s just not a lot of connection that’s still there for me.”
Images of the Cardinals cheerleaders during the season opener against Washington