Bradford returns to field after injury

ST. LOUIS — Jeff Fisher didn’t name names, but the Rams coach said Friday that quarterback Sam Bradford, who is coming off a season-ending ACL injury, finished ahead of some of his teammates during the squad’s conditioning test before the start of training camp.

That may be the most positive sign so for the St. Louis quarterback, who participated in some of the team’s OTA sessions but is now fully cleared to go at the beginning of his fifth NFL training camp.

“We’re just going to go and if we have to back down we’ll back down, but at this point he finished the conditioning test,” Fisher said. “I won’t mention the names of the people that crossed the line after him but he did well. He’s worked really hard.”

Bradford met with the media Friday and said he feels great.

“My knee feels really good,” he said. “It feels better than when we finished OTAs. I finished those last two OTAs pretty strong. It feels even better now. In talking to Coach (Fisher) and (head athletic trainer) Reggie (Scott), they feel good about having no limits. If it starts to get a little sore and we feel like we need to pull back we can always do that. Out of the gate I’m going to try and do everything.”

The Rams were glad to have No. 8 back out there on Friday afternoon.

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft was off to the best start of his career when he injured his knee late in the St. Louis’s seventh game, at Carolina. The Rams were 3-4 in his starts in 2013, and are 18-30-1 in his starts throughout his career, but Bradford was showing signs of the kind of improvement the team needed from the Heisman Trophy winner.

After completing 59.5 percent of his passes for 3,702 yards, 21 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and an 82.6 passer rating in 2012, Bradford’s numbers improved to 60.7 completion rate, 14 touchdowns vs. four interceptions and a 90.9 passer rating in 2013.

The Rams were just gaining traction offensively with the rushing attack when Bradford went down with his injury against the Panthers.

In his final three starts, 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. St. Louis won two of those three games.

Bradford was asked Friday if he feels pressure to perform this season.

“I don’t really pay attention to that,” he said. “I think that question’s probably been asked every year since I’ve been here. Every year is a ‘make it or break it’ year according to someone. I think everyone in our locker room feels really good about where we’re at right now and where this football team is going. I think we have a great chance to be really good. We’re just worried about coming out here right now at camp and getting better every day.”

The quarterback was admittedly rusty during the team’s first full-squad practice of training camp. Of course that is to be expected early in training camp, especially for a player coming off a major injury.

Bradford said he is trying to get back to the rhythm he had a year ago, before he got hurt and his season was over in late October. Friday’s practice represented a good first step toward that.

“There’s no doubt that there is still a little rust that needs to come off,” he said. “I just haven’t been out there. … I haven’t played a lot of football since the injury. Just tightening up all the small details with our guys. Making sure we use this time to get on the same page as far as conversions, routes, everything. Just pushing the unit to get better as a whole every day.”

His teammates were happy to have him back.

“He’s looked great,” linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar said. “We all ran with him a few days ago and he came out and he blew that conditioning test open. To see him do that and to see him out here throwing the ball and throwing some accurate balls, throwing some good balls, it’s just a relief to know that you’ve got the general on offense back.”

As for that conditioning test run, Dunbar isn’t naming names either.

“Guys that you would think would do a lot better. How does that sound?” Dunbar said. “I can’t tell you specifics, but Sam ran well and it looked really good to see him out there doing that.”

You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter at @NateLatsch or email him at natelatsch@gmail.com

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