Bradford, a $50 million man, relieved, excited to join Rams camp

ST. LOUIS -- Sam Bradford is doing his best to ignore the big contract numbers. Sighting a handful of Oklahoma jerseys in the crowd at his first practice with the St. Louis Rams helped keep him grounded.

"That's great," Bradford said after a 1½-hour workout. "It obviously made it a lot more comforting, knowing I did have some fans behind me. I think it just made today a bit easier."

The No. 1 overall draft pick signed his six-year, $78 million contract with $50 million in guarantees, most ever in the NFL, on Saturday afternoon.

About an hour later, the business finally concluded, the centerpiece of the franchise's rebuilding plan hit the field for the first full-squad workout in shorts and light pads.

And left thoughts of that bulging wallet behind.

"If you start worrying about all those other things, then it can really affect your performance," Bradford said. "I have very high expectations for myself and this team, and I think that's what's going to drive me to succeed."

The Rams did their best to act as if Bradford, the 2008 Heisman Trophy winner, was just one of the guys.

"What number?" coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "He's No. 8. I only deal with jersey numbers."

Running back Steven Jackson carried a struggling offense on his aching back last season.

Bradford said Jackson, the team's lone Pro Bowl pick in a 1-15 season, need only be himself.

"I would be naive to say he doesn't feel he has something to prove right away," Jackson said. "The only thing I can do as a veteran that's been in those shoes: Play football the way you know how. He's not the No. 1 pick for no reason, so I'm pretty sure as the season goes on and as his career goes on, he will blossom."

Bradford stayed in Oklahoma City during negotiations, anxiously waiting while receiving periodic updates from his agents. From Tuesday on, Bradford was on call to head to St. Louis.

"Not as many as you think, and I think that was what was really nerve-racking," Bradford said. "It would be four or five hours and I'm doing nothing but looking at the phone."

Bradford kept ready by working out every day and throwing to freshman Oklahoma wide receivers or even team managers. He missed three workouts for Rams rookies, quarterbacks and veterans coming off injuries, but he thought he threw the ball well in his first practice because he wasn't rusty.

"I felt really comfortable, more comfortable than I did in OTAs, which is a positive sign after taking four or five weeks off," Bradford said. "I felt like it was a good day."

Bradford and Jackson, who has rebounded from back surgery in April, lined up in the backfield a handful of times. Jackson felt extra excitement heading into the first workout, his first since dealing with back pain the past five or six games last season.

"I was preparing for practice today like it was a game," Jackson said. "I was not nervous, but really excited to hit the field with my teammates."

As for Bradford: "I was just relieved he was here. But that's the business of it."

Spagnuolo, was relieved too, even though he maintained he hadn't watched Bradford much. When the deal was done, Spagnuolo said he had a "big hug" for Kevin Demoff, the Rams' contract negotiator, and then said, "'I'll take it from here.'"

Notes: DT Darell Scott, a fourth-round pick last year, injured his right hamstring during morning conditioning testing and is day to day. ... S Darian Stewart (right shoulder sprain) might be out longer after being hurt Friday. ... DB Moses Harris was released to free a roster spot for Bradford.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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