The St. Louis Rams opted to place their 2014 hopes in the hands of QB Sam Bradford, despite Bradford's unwieldy contract and his recovery from a torn ACL. Their plans may have backfired before the regular season even begins.
Bradford hobbled to the locker room Saturday night after suffering an apparent injury to his left leg, the same leg he hurt last season. He took a couple of awkward hits on a first-quarter drive, the second coming on an incomplete pass when Browns defensive lineman Armonty Bryant attempted to wrap Bradford up high. Bryant threw his full weight onto Bradford as the Rams' quarterback had his leg planted in the turf.
(GIF via Daniel Doeling)
The Rams later ruled Bradford out for the remainder of the game with a knee injury, though the team did not initially disclose the severity. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that initial checks did not reveal any issues with Bradford's repaired ACL, but that Bradford will require further tests.
Any long-term issue would severely hinder the Rams' chances for 2014. It also would be a huge shot to Bradford's future, in St. Louis (his contract runs through 2015, though the team could save significant money by releasing him) and in the NFL -- a second major injury to the same knee would make it very difficult for Bradford to garner another starting chance any time soon.
Shaun Hill currently stands as Bradford's backup; he replaced Bradford in the lineup Saturday. Hill has made 26 starts during his nine-year career, 10 for Detroit in 2010 after an injury sidelined Matthew Stafford. But he has not taken a start since that '10 season and did not even attempt a regular-season pass last year. Austin Davis and 2014 sixth-round pick Garrett Gilbert are also on the roster, for now. No longer around is 2013 backup Kellen Clemens, who is now serving as Philip Rivers' safety net in San Diego. Clemens took over for an injured Bradford last season and started the Rams' final nine games.
Before the original knee injury last year, Bradford was on pace for his best season as an NFL quarterback. He completed 60.7 percent of his passes with 14 touchdowns to just four interceptions prior to the incident, with a career-high 90.9 QB rating.