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.
It's anyone's guess if the Rams are still interested in making Bradford their quarterback of the future. They have two first-round picks in next year's draft, and with the 2014 quarterback class looking mighty good, they might decide to go a different direction at quarterback.
Frankly, a change of scenery might not be the worst thing in the world for Bradford.
The next time he's hanging out at the Heisman House, he should ask Jim Plunkett about that.
Plunkett won the Heisman Trophy as a Stanford senior in 1970. Considered one of the best pro quarterback prospects of all time because of his powerful arm — is any of this sounding familiar? — Plunkett was the first overall pick in the 1971 NFL Draft, but he went to New England and struggled. He won six games as a rookie, then three, then five, then seven, then two.
After spending two uneventful seasons in San Francisco, Plunkett went to Oakland. He stood on the sideline for most of the next two seasons. He didn't even attempt a pass in 1978.
But early in the 1980 season, he took over the starting job after an injury.
Less than four months later, he led the Raiders to a Super Bowl title, earning MVP honors.
In 1983, Plunkett again became the starter because of an injury and again led the Raiders to a Super Bowl crown.
The first act of Plunkett's pro career was a total bust, but he isn't remembered for that. Not with a second act that included a pair of Super Bowl rings.
Bradford should take heart in that.
Things didn't look good Sunday when he was being taken to the locker room on the back of a cart. Things don't look good now that surgery and months of rehab loom. Still, there can still be plenty of football in Sammy B.'s future.
Plenty of success, too.
The first act wasn't good, but that doesn't mean the second act can't be a showstopper.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.