“I didn’t,” Bradford said after Thursday’s organized team activity. “Throughout the end of last year I was in communication with [general manager] Les [Snead] and (coach) Jeff [Fisher], and they made it very clear what their plan was. Throughout the offseason they continued to make that clear. I knew what my position on this team was.”
From there, the Manziel to the Rams rumors picked up steam and reached the point that one report indicated the Rams were shopping Bradford.
After he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on Oct. 20 against Carolina and had surgery on Nov. 18, the Rams repeatedly voiced their confidence in Bradford publicly and behind the scenes.
While rehabbing his knee, it would have been easy for Bradford to allow doubt to creep in and worry the Rams might go in a different direction. After all, it was Bradford’s second injury in three seasons and he has yet to establish himself as a consistently productive quarterback who can lead his team to the postseason.
Bradford maintains doubts never found their way into his mind.
“I pretty much knew what was going to happen,” Bradford said. “Like I said, I had been in pretty good communication with Les and Jeff and they had made it pretty clear what their intention was, so I really wasn’t too worried.”
To their credit, the Rams also handled a potentially tricky scenario with savvy. Even if they were genuinely considering replacing Bradford, telling him that he was the guy and giving him the vote of confidence was the only logical move.
The last thing the team would need is for Fisher or Snead to cast doubt about Bradford’s future and then discover it didn’t like any of the quarterback prospects enough to use an early pick in the draft. That would have resulted in a potentially angry Bradford returning to the mix in a season in which the Rams have little margin for error.
Put simply, if the toothpaste had been let out of the tube, there would have been no way to put it back in.
Handling it the way they did allowed the Rams to look into quarterback prospects and see if there were any that might be worth a No. 2 overall pick.
The Rams also maintained at least a modicum of plausible deniability in case they did fall in love with a quarterback prospect and decided to move on from Bradford.
As it turned out, the Rams decided to bet on Bradford building on what they view as a promising first half of the 2013 season.
“I don’t think he’s feeling any pressure at all,” Fisher said. “He just wants to win. All of this stuff is being generated that this is his year, things like that; if you do the projections off of last year, if he’d have stayed healthy he would have had some very impressive numbers. So no pressure on Sam.”
Bradford finished 2013 with 1,687 yards, 14 touchdowns and four interceptions with a completion percentage of 60.7 in seven games. As Fisher points out, over the course of a full season those numbers would project among the best in the league.
Simply projecting the numbers also isn’t an ideal tell of how Bradford had played. He (and the offense as a whole) struggled mightily against Atlanta, Dallas and San Francisco, and some of those numbers were accrued with the Rams playing catch-up in the second half.
But Bradford did play his best after the Rams established a legitimate run game in Week 5 and put together strong performances against Jacksonville, Houston and Carolina in steering a more balanced offense.
Upon suffering the injury, Bradford was clearly dejected about being unable to finish his fourth season. He spent the rest of the year doing his best to stay involved and serve as additional eyes and ears for backup Kellen Clemens while attacking his rehab.
All along, the Rams have expected Bradford to be ready to start the 2014 season. He is scheduled to participate in about half of the team’s 10 organized team activities, and has already been cleared to run full speed in a straight line.
“I don’t think the injuries really change anything,” Bradford said. “My goal is to come out here and get better every day during the offseason, every day during training camp to help this team win games. Obviously as a competitor you want to be out there every day and every week, so going into the year I think the goal is to play every down of every week.”
That Bradford will have the chance to do that is a product of an offseason in which all parties handled what could have been an awkward situation as well as they could.