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Sam Bradford still has an NFL future, but it might be somewhere other than St. Louis

After suffering a season-ending knee injury Sunday, the questions about Bradford outnumber the answers. Will he come back better? Will he struggle? Will he have a future with the Rams?
by Jenni Carlson Published: October 21, 2013

The image is all too familiar around these parts — Sam Bradford on the ground writhing in pain.

It happened again Sunday.

Instead of a shoulder injury like the one that eventually ended his Oklahoma career, the St. Louis quarterback suffered a knee injury. A torn anterior cruciate ligament. A devastating moment.

Now, the questions about Sammy B. outnumber the answers.

Will he come back better? Will he struggle? Will he have a future with the Rams?

About all that is certain is this — Sam Bradford needs to have a strong second act to his career if he doesn't want to be labeled a bust.

The Oklahoma City native is the last of the bonus babies. The rookie salary structure has been revamped since he was picked first in the 2010 NFL Draft and signed to the biggest rookie contract ever. Never again will a rookie be given a six-year, $78 million contract, $50 million of which was guaranteed.

Things have gone steadily downhill since then for Bradford.

Oh, he had a solid season as a rookie, going into the final week of the regular season with a chance to make the playoffs. He was named NFL Rookie of the Year. But he spent a lot of the season running for his life.

That has been a constant theme throughout his time in St. Louis. The Rams just haven't had great talent around Bradford, and it has made his job difficult.

Adding to the struggles has been instability. In three-plus seasons, Sammy B. has played for three offensive coordinators, two head coaches and two general managers.

The results were predictably bad — Bradford was only 15-26-1 as a starter in his first three seasons.

But this season, things were finally starting to come together. Bradford was easily having his best season as a pro. Through six weeks, Football Outsiders' opponent-adjusted efficiency metrics ranked Bradford 10th. That was higher than Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson and Tom Brady.

Who knows what might have come of this season? The Rams don't have much of a running game, but Bradford might have taken some big steps in his development.

Now, he must rebuild his knee and regain his foothold.

And he might have to do it with another franchise.

A few weeks ago, the Rams said publicly that they were interested in extending Bradford's contract.

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by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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