Rams hand reins to rookie Bradford, who will be starting QB

ST. LOUIS -- The Rams will start No. 1 overall draft pick Sam Bradford at quarterback in the Sept. 12 season opener against the Arizona Cardinals.

Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo announced the decision Saturday, saying Bradford had earned the job.

"We're confident. The staff's confident. The team's confident," Spagnuolo said. "It's well deserved."

A.J. Feeley, whose injury gave Bradford the chance to take plenty of snaps during the preseason, and Thaddeus Lewis are St. Louis' backup quarterbacks. Keith Null, who started four games last season, was released.

Bradford won the 2008 Heisman Trophy when he was at the University of Oklahoma. He signed a six-year, $78 million contract with $50 million in guaranteed money -- the most ever in the NFL -- then went out and played well in the preseason against the likes of the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens.

"I feel like coach has given me a great opportunity to start next week against Arizona," Bradford said. "I realize there is a lot of responsibility that comes with that opportunity."

While the low-key Bradford did manage to smile when talking, he said he is ready.

"Definitely. I'm a competitor," Bradford said. "I sat on the bench last year with an injury, and it's something that I did not enjoy at all. Just to have the opportunity to play football again, it's really something that I look forward to."

In his two preseason starts, Bradford was 21-of-28 passing for 257 yards and three touchdowns. For the preseason, Bradford completed 33 of 55 passes for 338 yards with no interceptions.

Bradford likely sealed the deal with his performance last Thursday against the Ravens in the preseason finale. Bradford's opening drive set the tone for a 27-21 victory that gave the Rams a 3-1 preseason finish for the second consecutive season. He was 6-of-6 passing for 68 yards and one touchdown in his one series, one week after a two-TD effort.

"It was evident in these last three games that he had pretty good control of what we're doing," Spagnuolo said. "The team kind of rallies around him."

Feeley, 33, went down with an injured right thumb during the Rams' second preseason game at Cleveland, and that put Bradford on the fast track to the starter's job. Feeley has just 15 career starts in 10 seasons and was signed by St. Louis as a free agent during the offseason.

"I think we're very, very fortunate to have A.J. Feeley in this particular role as a backup quarterback," Spagnuolo said. "He's a seasoned vet who knows the ins and outs, and he can feed that to Sam as he goes along.

"I don't think anybody in this situation coming in as a rookie quarterback is ready for everything. I'm sure these defensive coordinators will fire things at him."

Lewis, who played at Duke, beat out Null, a sixth-round pick by the Rams last year.

Bradford threw just 69 passes last season at Oklahoma because he hurt his shoulder during the season opener against BYU. He returned three weeks later and played against Baylor before hurting the shoulder the following week against Texas, and he didn't play again.

Still, that didn't keep Bradford from dreaming about being the No. 1 pick in the draft.

"Yeah, I think when you can imagine things like that, that's really what motivated me to work so hard to get myself back in this position," Bradford said. "I think I did work extremely hard in the offseason rehabbing my shoulder. Now that I have this opportunity, I want to make the most of it."

The Rams also placed safety Kevin Payne and tackle Eric Young on season-ending injured reserve. Both have knee injuries.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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