NFL Combine: Top Two QBs Wait to Impress at Pro Days

Ron Clements@Ron_ClementsCorrespondent IFebruary 28, 2010

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 05:  Quarterback Sam Bradford #14 of the Oklahoma Sooners warms up before a game against the Brigham Young Cougars at Cowboys Stadium on September 5, 2009 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

INDIANAPOLIS - St. Louis Rams' coach Steve Spagnuolo said he would like to find a quarterback that has the same kind of leadership intangible like James Laurinaitis, whom the Rams selected at the top of last year's second round.

"Leadership is really important to that position, just like how you would, on the defensive side of the ball, on a mike linebacker," Spagnuolo said. "Those are the people who are talking in front of the huddle. We put a high value on that."

Sam Bradford feels he fits the bill.

"I think I am a great leader," Bradford said. "If you talk to any of my teammates at Oklahoma, I was one of the leaders on our team. I can be vocal, and get after guys when I need to. I also like to lead by example. If you don't practice what you preach, nobody's going to follow you."

Wearing a No. 1 on his chest, Bradford laughed about the coincidental number donning his workout T-shirt at the NFL Scouting Combine.

"It's alphabetical order, and I happened to be the first name," the potential top pick in April's draft said with a smile and shake of his head. "Everyone dreams of being No. 1 and through this process, I'm preparing myself. I'm going to show them everything I have, but at the end of the day, it's not up to me, it's up to them."

Bradford stood tall with an air of confidence while answering questions from the media Saturday afternoon. Jimmy Clausen, the other quarterback at the top of some mock drafts, answered direct questions about his character with poise.

Both quarterbacks said all the right things, and either could be the No. 1 player taken in the NFL draft by the Rams on April 22.

Because of injuries, neither quarterback will throw at this weekend's NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Bradford had reconstructive shoulder surgery last fall to fix a tear in his right shoulder. Clausen had offseason surgery to repair torn tendons in his right big toe.

Both players were poked, prodded, and evaluated by NFL team doctors at the combine on Friday. On Saturday, each spoke about the experience.

"Obviously there are a lot of questions about my shoulder," said Bradford, who drew the largest contingency of media members in the Baker & Daniels Club inside the home stadium of the Indianapolis Colts. "No one's found anything. I'm in a great rehab program and my throwing sessions are starting to pick up in intensity. My arm feels great after I throw."

Bradford was tested for mobility and strength, and will be evaluated further by the Rams, who met with the former Oklahoma quarterback Saturday night.

Bradford said he's throwing about 100 passes of 20 to 40 yards every other day with as much zip as he can.

"If you want to get your arm stronger, that's what you need to do," Bradford said. "It's gotten stronger every time I've thrown, and it really feels good now."

Bradford could have been the first pick in the 2009 draft following a stellar season as a redshirt sophomore. He decided to come back, and injured his shoulder in a season-opening loss to BYU. He later re-injured the shoulder, necessitating the surgery, but never was worried about his draft stock.

"I knew I was still the same player," Bradford said. "It just made me work harder to get myself back in that position."

Clausen's leadership ability has been under fire; something he said is an unwarranted perception.

"I've grown tremendously since I came to Notre Dame. There have been some ups and downs," Clausen said, acknowledging views that he is "arrogant or cocky."

"Some of those people who say those things don't know me as a person," Clausen continued. "That's why I was so excited to come here and talk to the coaches and GMs and owners so they get a feel for me as a person.

"Being at Notre Dame, the quarterback and head coach get all the credit when things go right, and get a lot of the blame when things go wrong. It's a tough situation being in the fish bowl at Notre Dame."

At Notre Dame, Clausen was under the tutelage of former Patriots offensive coordinator, and current Chiefs offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. Now, Clausen thinks the scrutiny he faced at Notre Dame has helped prepare him to lead an NFL franchise.

"I think I'm ready," Clausen said. "That's why I went to Notre Dame, to best replicate what it would be like being in the big-time, in the NFL as a rookie."

Spagnuolo isn't necessarily against starting a rookie quarterback in Week 1, but said it's "smart to ease those guys in."

"Some guys have been thrown in the fire and have had some success," Spagnuolo said, referring to the recent success of Atlanta's Matt Ryan, Baltimore's Joe Flacco and Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets. "But you could back through the history of this league, and see the same situation the other way. It depends on the person, the guy standing there being the quarterback."

Clausen, who said he met with the Bills and Redskins Friday night, threw for 3,722 yards with 28 touchdowns to just four interceptions last season. Clausen ran a pro style offense while Bradford was in a spread system for most of his career. Bradford said he practiced under center every day in Norman and ran plays under center as a freshman.

"People get this misconception that if you play in a spread, if you play in a shotgun, you don't know how to take a drop," Bradford said. "It just shortens your drop. When you're in the shotgun, you still take a three-step drop.  I'm very comfortable under center. It's something I've done since I've been in college and going back to high school."

Without coming off as arrogant, Bradford praised his own technique, footwork, athleticism, poise and competitiveness.

"I really don't think one single player is the face of the franchise," Bradford said. "It's a team game. There's a bunch of guys people look to when they think of that franchise. If people want to put that on me, I'm sure that's something I'll embrace, but I'd have to grow into it."

Bradford's playing weight was around 220, but he weighed in Friday at 236 pounds on a 6-foot-4 frame. His impressive stature caught the attention of Spagnuolo, and Bradford said he wanted to add muscle mass to help combat the wear and tear of the NFL.

"There were some questions about my weight last year, people thought I was too small to come out," Bradford said. "I wanted to answer any of those questions this year."

Clausen will also have to answer questions about his right big toe, which he injured in Notre Dame's second game of the season. Thinking he had "turf toe," Clausen played all season, not realizing he had two torn tendons that required surgery.

Those questions will be answered at his pro day on Apr. 9 in South Bench. Bradford's pro day will be two weeks earlier, on Mar. 25, but he said that was not scheduled to undermine Clausen's workout.

"We scheduled ours without knowing when his was," Bradford said. "That's when we planned it. I still have to come out and perform well.

"It'll be the first time I've thrown in front of pro scouts since they've seen me play. Everyone's really anxious to see my arm and how it looks after surgery."

Aside from acknowledging the meeting with the Rams on Saturday night, Bradford wouldn't comment on which NFL teams he has talked to.

"I really don't think that needs to be out there."

This article can also be found with audio at The Alton Telegraph.