ST. LOUIS (KMOX) — Sam Bradford can’t wait to get back on the field.
The Rams quarterback, who had his 2013 season cut short by a knee injury, will make his preseason debut on Saturday afternoon against the Green Bay Packers at the Edward Jones Dome.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been out there for real and I can’t wait to get back out there,” Bradford said. “Going through OTAs and going through training camp, I mean, that’s great and all but we’re here to play the game. So to get out there on Saturday and take live snaps I think I’m really looking forward to it. Hopefully the guys are looking forward to having me back out there too.”
Bradford and his knee have passed every test so far.
There were no issues during OTAs, when the quarterback participated in about half the practice sessions as a precaution measure, and there have not been any problems throughout training camp.
“I’ve taken every rep,” Bradford said. “Haven’t had to sit out, haven’t had to miss anything. My knee feels great, it’s responded really well. I think we’ve been very fortunate Coach (Jeff) Fisher does a great job with our schedule. Between the special teams practices and the days off, we’ve had some time to rest and recover. My knee feels really good right now. I’m really happy to see that I haven’t had to miss any time in camp.”
Bradford was held out of the first preseason game, last Friday against the New Orleans Saints, but that was all part of the recovery plan prescribed to the quarterback by Fisher and the Rams’ head athletic trainer, Reggie Scott.
But this next step for Bradford is a big one. He needs to get hit.
Each step of his rehab and recovery has been significant, but there’s a big difference between the 26 year old slinging the ball around practice while wearing a red no-contact jersey and the quarterback playing in a game where an opposing defense will be trying to knock him around.
“I think it’s important just to be out there knowing that I can get hit, knowing that I’m probably going to take a few hits in the preseason,” Bradford said. “I think it’s probably bigger for everyone else to see that it’s going to be OK. I’m going to get hit. It’s part of the game. It’s no big deal. I’ve come back from an injury before, but it will be nice to take that first hit and get up knowing that everything’s fine.”
Everybody will be watching how Bradford responds on Saturday.
Then, the questions will turn to how he’ll play this season.
Bradford was off to a strong start to his fourth season a year ago. In seven games he completed 60.7 percent of his passes, for 1,687 yards, 14 touchdowns against just four interceptions, with a passer rating of 90.9. The completion percentage and passer rating were career highs.
The Rams are hopeful that Bradford can pick up right where he left off in his final three starts of the 2013 seasons, when they beat Jacksonville and Houston before losing at Carolina.
In those three games, he completed 65 percent of his passes (52 of 80) for 594 yards, seven touchdowns against one interception, and a passer rating of 111.1.
The Rams will need the No. 1 overall pick of the 2010 draft to take the next step in his career if they are going to have a winning record for the first time since 2003 and earn a berth in the playoffs for the first time since 2004.
Bradford feels good physically and entering his third season in offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer’s system.
“It just feels better,” he said. “I feel like being in my third year with Schotty it really allows me to take ownership of this offense. I know exactly what we’re trying to do. I know how I want the plays to be run, how I see things. I think Schotty trusts me more now with saying things and speaking up. So, I think it’s just really allowing me to expand my leadership role in the offense.”
The first chance he’ll have to show that this season will be on Saturday.
Bradford said that he doesn’t know how much he is going to play against the Packers, but he knows what he’s looking for when he’s out there.
“I just want to see an efficient operation out there,” Bradford said. “No pre-snap penalties, getting us in and out of the right plays, pushing the ball down the field, and probably taking a few hits and getting up knowing that I’ll be OK.”
Nate Latsch has been covering sports in St. Louis for more than a decade, working for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, FOX Sports Midwest, FOX Sports, STLhighschoolsports.com, Scout.com and other newspapers and websites. You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter at @NateLatsch, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and read more of his Rams coverage at GridironGateway.com.