Thursday start for Bradford would add up

A.J. Feeley has four days to recover from a thumb injury before the St. Louis Rams face the New England Patriots on Thursday night.

Why not just start Sam Bradford, who needs the reps anyway?

"That certainly could happen" if Feeley is unable to practice this week, coach Steve Spagnuolo said Sunday when I posed the scenario to him during a conference call with reporters.

"We'll have to see where A.J. is," Spagnuolo said. "He is pretty sore and swollen, so we will see what happens with him this week."

The Rams expect an MRI exam to tell them more about Feeley's injury. The team X-rayed Feeley's elbow, which was also hurting.

Spagnuolo is taking the right approach here. He needs to respect Feeley, his starter for the time being. Feeley outplayed Bradford during the Rams' game against the Cleveland Browns on Saturday night. Hastily naming Bradford the starter for Thursday regardless of Feeley's condition would undermine Feeley for no good reason.

But if the Rams expect Bradford to play extensively this season -- and they do -- they should use Feeley's injury as cover to give the rookie a long run with the first-team offense against New England. Bradford should have a chance to play with first-team running back Steven Jackson, who ran well Saturday before leaving the game just as Bradford was taking over the offense.

It's important for Bradford to enjoy some success during the exhibition season, and that is most likely to happen if he's in the game for an extended period. Bradford has impressed the Rams during practices. Poor protection made it tough for him in the exhibition opener. Bradford wasn't sharp against the Browns even though the protection was better (Spagnuolo said the team used more zone tactics, mixing up protections to keep the defense guessing more).

"He was a little bit up and down," Spagnuolo said. "He did some good things. A couple of the balls, certainly one should have been caught. There was a timing situation on one of them to Mardy Gilyard that we'll get ironed out, could have given us a first down."

Spagnuolo faulted himself for emphasizing ball security amid rainy conditions to the point that Bradford might have been paying too much attention to taking the snap from center, at the expense of timing throughout the play.

There's one way for Bradford to work through such issues, and that is by playing extensively. Expect more playing time for Bradford against the Patriots.