(JASON DeCROW ~ Associated Press)
The St. Louis Rams took the Oklahoma quarterback Thursday night, hoping he can help revive a franchise that has bottomed out from its long-ago days as "The Greatest Show on Turf."
"You have no idea how excited I am just to have the opportunity to come to St. Louis and play my NFL career there," Bradford said during a conference call. "It's just a blessing and I can't wait to get there and get to work."
St. Louis was 1-15 a year ago and has a sorry 6-42 record the past three years. Over time, Rams general manager Billy Devaney persuaded coach Steve Spagnuolo, who has a defensive background, that taking the 6-foot-4 Bradford was the right move.
"We don't see any negatives -- rare size, accuracy off the charts," Devaney said. "He's a much better athlete, especially when you see him live, than I gave him credit for early on in this process.
"I happen to think he's the whole package."
Bradford came away impressed after in-depth meetings with the team.
"I love the coaching staff, I love the attitude they have," Bradford said. "They're ready to start winning games."
Bradford was the 2008 Heisman Trophy winner, and he convinced the Rams that he has recovered from shoulder surgery last October. He's known St. Louis was interested since the NFL combine in February and knew he was ready for the NFL after a workout in Pensacola, Fla., about two weeks before his pro day.
"My ball, it was coming out quick. My arm strength felt good," Bradford said. "After I went through that workout I called one of my friends and I was like, 'You know what, I think I'm back.'"
Bradford said he tried to maximize his time off the field after the surgery during a lengthy rehab process.
"I learned a lot about myself, how to deal with adversity, how to deal with things that don't go right in your life," Bradford said. "I feel like I've matured mentally from going through that situation and I think I'll be much better prepared as I make this transition."
Releasing Marc Bulger earlier this month all but clinched the Rams' decision, as long as they kept the pick. Devaney said the Rams never were close to trading down with another team, though he said the Browns called about 15 minutes before the draft began but never made a proposal.
"There wasn't any offer on the table at any point," Devaney said. "Zero."
Bradford jumps to the head of an undistinguished group at quarterback, but the Rams stopped far short of anointing him the immediate starter.
A.J. Feeley, who signed a free agent deal in the offseason, has 15 career starts in 10 seasons and was the top candidate before Thursday. Rookie Keith Null threw three touchdown passes with nine interceptions last season. Kyle Boller signed with the Raiders and Mike Reilly, a late-season pickup, has no NFL experience.
"There's no preconceived notion or game plan with Sam right now," Spagnuolo said. "I think we've put ourselves in a situation that we can go either way. We'll do what's best for him and what's best for our team."
St. Louis needs help most on offense after trailing the rest of the NFL with a 10.9-points-per-game average, scoring one or fewer touchdowns in 13 games. The Rams also were 29th in total offense and defense.
Bradford followed the Lions' Matthew Stafford as the second straight quarterback taken with the first overall pick. He's the ninth Heisman winner to be selected No. 1, and first since USC quarterback Carson Palmer in 2003 by the Bengals.
The Rams previously chose offensive tackle Jason Smith and defensive end Chris Long with the second overall picks in 2009 and '08.
Devaney doesn't believe signing Bradford will be a big problem, although Bradford deflected contract talk to his agent, Tom Condon of St. Louis.
"He's the one that handles the business side," Bradford said. "I cannot wait to get on that football field."