The clock is ticking on Bradford, Rams

Is anyone else preparing to see the Rams head into training camp without rookie QB Sam Bradford? The possibility is real—as it is with any first round pick in this league. But unlike last year’s No. 1 overall pick, Matthew Stafford of the Lions (who was signed before the draft even began in 2009), St. Louis will have to get their top pick under contract in less than three weeks.

Time for concern today? Not quite yet, as Bradford and his agent Tom Condon have some time before the Rams report and begin their actual preparation for the 2010 season. However, let’s talk about what Bradford will miss if he isn’t under contract when Steve Spagnuolo’s club starts practicing.

Sam BradfordICONBradford can't afford to miss time during training camp as a rookie.

Forget about Bradford starting for St. Louis in the first week of the regular season for a moment. Yes, that could still be a possibility for this team, but take a step back and look at what Bradford needs from the training camp experience. Too often we tend to overlook the impact of camp in general for rookies, and with QBs that is magnified to a point where time spent at home waiting for a contract to be delivered is devastating to their development.

Position players can miss some time. I saw it myself during my own career where a first round pick missed out on a week—or even two weeks—to open up camp only to be thrown directly into the fire on the first day they put on a helmet. Their “football education” happens right there on the field. The coaching staff speeds up the learning curve that way—and corrections are made in between snaps in the middle of August. Not the best way to introduce a rookie to the NFL, but it can be done.

But, you can’t do that with a QB if you expect him to contribute early in the regular season. They need to be there everyday on the field and in the meeting room. Forget about OTAs and minicamps. Those are lowly dress rehearsals compared to the atmosphere of an NFL training camp. And, the time invested in just one day is crucial when it comes to not only the QBs development but that of the offense as well.

The bottom line: Bradford needs to make mistakes in August and he needs to be corrected countless times. Because as good as the competition was when he played at Oklahoma, it in nothing like what he is going to see in the NFL.

And, rookie QBs need to make mistakes in camp. It is part of their “football education” at this level. Working everyday, and experiencing some adversity along the way eventually forces them to mature into pro players at the position.

However, that only happens when you are on the field—and you need a contract to do that.

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