NORMAN — In January, Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford had to decide if he would return for another college football season.
When the reigning Heisman Trophy winner suffered a sprain in his throwing shoulder in this season’s opening loss to Brigham Young, he then had to decide when he was comfortable returning to the field.
After aggravating the same injury Saturday against Texas, he might have to decide both for the second time. Will he return for the 2010 season? Will he even play again this season?
What the junior can’t decide is what his future bosses, in the NFL, think of him.
"The negativity will build. It already has,” said Todd McShay, an NFL Draft analyst for ESPN. "Since last season, there hasn’t been anything positive from him, and the concerns will grow as we get closer to the draft.”
Bradford has two options if he wants to squash those negative vibes: work to get back on the field this season and risk injuring the shoulder a third time. Or, he can have surgery and return to Norman for his senior season.
Otherwise, Bradford will enter next April’s draft with a heap of question marks that general managers can’t answer.
Depending on when — or if — Bradford has surgery, NFL teams might not get to see him work out before the draft. That would cause an almost-imminent fall down the draft boards.
Surgery recovery time is estimated at four months. The NFL Draft Combine is Feb. 24-March 2.
If Bradford fails to attend the Combine, he could attract a horde of scouts at a Pro Day in Norman, which is held after the Combine. But that would mean having immediate surgery.
"He should be focused on one thing: getting healthy and getting back on the field,” McShay said. "If the doctors tell him to shut it down, then the question is whether he should stay or go.”
"If I were him, I would stay another year, as crazy as it sounds.”
If Bradford turns pro, he might face a drop on the draft board. That might lead to a $10 million to $20 million pay cut.
"He’d go from Mark Sanchez money to Josh Freeman money, basically,” said Daniel Mogollon, president of NFL Draft Bible, a Web site devoted to covering the draft.
Two weeks ago, Bradford dismissed the idea that money was his primary concern, though the former Putnam City North standout will eventually become a wealthy man.
A slip to the late first round might give him the opportunity to earn a Super Bowl ring sooner by being drafted by a team closer to contention than, say, the Detroit Lions.