Shoulder injury led Rams' Bradford to seek advice from Brees

ST. LOUIS -- It's not your typical role-model week for Sam Bradford.

Sure, the St. Louis Rams' rookie quarterback was excited to see how he matched up with Matt Ryan last month and Philip Rivers back in October. There's more of a connection this week entering Sunday's game at New Orleans.

Before undergoing shoulder surgery last year, Bradford received some advice from a player who spent time on Dr. James Andrews' operating table. Drew Brees, who came all the way back from career-threatening shoulder surgery in 2005, counseled the future No. 1 pick to be diligent with his rehabilitation.

Some encouraging words from the doctor, too. Andrews told the future No. 1 pick that Brees' injury was 10 times worse. And look at what Brees has accomplished for the Saints.

"He told me that there were people that were very skeptical he would be able to come back or even throw a football," Bradford said. "Knowing that he could come back from such a severe shoulder injury and knowing that mine wasn't nearly as bad gave me a lot of confidence going into the surgery. It let me know that going through the rehab I would be fine."

Brees and Bradford initially connected because they have the same agent, Tom Condon of St. Louis. Right away, there was mutual respect.

The most impressive aspect of Bradford's rookie season, to Brees' thinking, is his ability to not beat himself. Bradford has 17 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions, three of them coming in a season-opening loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

"Some guys learn faster than others, and it seems like Sam Bradford learned that pretty quick," Brees said. "It took me getting benched three times to learn that in about three years, so he's much further ahead than I was at that stage, that's for sure."

The surprising NFC West-leading Rams (6-6) are 1-1 in Bradford's first two games against top quarterbacks, beating Rivers' Chargers 20-17 in Week 6 and losing 34-17 to Ryan's Falcons in Week 11. In those two games, the rookie was a combined 45-of-73 passing for three touchdowns with an interception (against Atlanta) that ended his NFL rookie-record run of 169 consecutive passes without a pick.

Not that Bradford is interested in keeping track or trying to post a better yardage total than his counterpart. He just wants to keep improving and learning from his elders.

The Saints have the NFL's third-ranked offense, and Brees leads the league with 25 touchdown passes, although his interception total is up at 16.

"They've got a lot of playmakers that push the ball down the field," Bradford said. "They're exciting to watch. We can take some things from that offense and do them here."

Especially from Brees, the four-time Pro Bowl pick and Super Bowl MVP. Brees has passed for 21,932 yards since joining New Orleans in 2006, the most by a quarterback in any five-year span in NFL history.

"He makes plays in the pocket, he makes plays out of the pocket," Bradford said. "He's very accurate, and he always seems to get them into the right play.

"I think when you watch him play, there's really nothing you don't like."

Last week, Bradford learned the Rams can win even if he's not at his best and that he doesn't need to do it all. Steven Jackson rushed for 102 yards, and the defense threw a shutout in the final three quarters of a 19-6 victory at Arizona, picking up the slack despite Bradford's third-worst passer rating of 66.3 -- topped only by the opener and the Rams' lone stinker, a 44-6 loss at Detroit in Week 5.

With St. Louis nursing a 9-6 lead early in the third quarter, Bradford threw just his second interception in the last seven games. The Rams had only 288 total yards and settled for field goals, failing to convert on their first eight third-down tries before putting it together at the finish while running out the final 5:17.

"Give them credit for stopping us," Bradford said. "But at the same time there were some things we saw on film that we could have done to keep drives going, especially when we got into the red zone."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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