EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams' quarterback job is officially open.
Speaking to the media in his end-of-season news conference Tuesday, Rams coach Jeff Fisher made it clear the Rams would like to bring incumbent Sam Bradford back, but with the important caveat that nothing is guaranteed when it comes to him returning as the starter.
"There's going to be competition at the quarterback position, there's no doubt," Fisher said. "With somebody that is not in the building right now. We're hopeful for that. You have to be realistic but I think we need to do that. Sam understands that. He doesn't have any problem with competition. He's been competing his whole life."
Bradford is currently in the midst of rehabilitating from a second torn left ACL in as many seasons. As he recovers from that injury, Bradford heads into an uncertain offseason in which it's clear the Rams would like him back but under the right circumstances.
Bradford is due to count $16.58 million against the 2015 salary cap with a base salary of $12.985 million. The Rams would save that base salary by releasing him but Fisher also made it clear the intent is to bring Bradford back at a reduced rate.
"Sam and I have talked off and on throughout since the injury," Fisher said. "We're going to be getting together here soon. He's very excited about the opportunity to come back and compete for a spot here. We have some work to do obviously from a contractual standpoint that I'm confident we'll sort some things out.
"I think it would make sense that both sides need to get together and work something out."
What that something is has yet to play out. Bradford said Tuesday that he has had conversations with Fisher and general manager Les Snead throughout the season and nothing has changed since the injury in terms of their relationship.
Bradford also said that discussions of his future with the team have yet to take place. Clearly, the Rams would prefer to bring Bradford back cheaper while bringing in another quarterback either via free agency or the draft to compete with him.
Bradford said he would embrace competition but obviously would prefer to come back as the starter. He also said he won't worry about that until the first piece of the puzzle -- his contract -- is worked out.
"If I'm here, that's what I would expect," Bradford said. "But we haven't had really any talks about the future and what's going to happen so until that progresses, I really don't know."
Asked whether he'd be receptive to taking a pay cut or reconfiguring his contract, Bradford said that's not necessarily something he will handle.
"Obviously there's a lot of things that can happen," Bradford said. "I'm not really involved in that process. That's why I've got an agent."
In the meantime, Bradford is focused on getting back to full strength. He plans to stay in St. Louis this offseason to continue his rehab and though he said he felt better after this injury than he did the first one, he and the Rams training staff will likely be a bit more deliberate in bringing him back than they were last year.
Immediately after suffering the injury in August, Bradford said he had moments where he wondered if he ever even wanted to play again. He's since moved past that and is now working to return.
"It was really tough that first week after the injury," Bradford said. "There was part of me for a couple days that I was done with football. I didn't want to come back, I didn't want to play, I was tired of rehabbing. I was just tired of the process. But when you step back and you are away from the game for awhile, then you come back and you're in the building and you're around your teammates, I quickly realized that I wasn't done and that I wanted to come back and that I feel like I've still got a lot to prove."
If and when Bradford does return this time, he won't just have to prove he's healthy, he'll have to prove he's worthy of keeping his job.