The St. Louis Rams won their first game of the Sam Bradford era. Yes, the Rams beat the Rams in their annual intra-squad scrimmage...and fans of sophisticated humor once again lost while reading the intro of a Turf Show Times post.
In all seriousness, the Rams were big winners Saturday night. With somewhere around 8,000 fans on the scene, Sam Bradford, the man chosen to carry the franchise into the future, put on a passing clinic that injected a straight shot of enthusiasm into a team plugged into life support long enough that only a handful of the most dedicated remain at its side.
The throws, the catches, the sacks, the runs...all of those things that make the scrimmage so exciting are, in a way, a secondary concern. LIke any practice or preseason game, players stepping up and making plays and the units functioning well indicate progress. It's even more impressive that the Rams and so many rookies look sharp after just a week of practice in full pads.
Give Sam Bradford the credit he deserves. Yes, he makes oodles of money, but the unwritten part of that contract is the mandate he carries to rejuvenate the franchise. That's part of the reason he gets what seems like CEO money (though it's far from that in reality). With each 3-, 5- and 7-step drop last night, Bradford took a big step toward further cementing his connection with an alienated fan base. The rookie QB and his team have to compete, they have to make football exciting again before the Rams really take root again.
Bradford, already known for his excellent acumen, knew that the scrimmage was more than just a glorified practice. Here's what the QB told SI's Don Banks:
I really haven't played a lot of football in the past year. I think that's what makes (Saturday night) even more special. Some people look at it and say, 'Oh, it's just a scrimmage.' Me? It's the first opportunity I've had to play football since I've gotten hurt. That's exciting.
By that yardstick, the Rams' Saturday night scrimmage was a huge success, much more so than last year's 3-1 preseason and all the unreasonable expectations that came with it. The national media is taking note of Sam Bradford and his team now. The city of St. Louis is distracted enough to peel away a shred of its rapt attention from the Cardinals to keep an eye on what's happening. Most of all, fans genuinely have a reason to be excited for Rams football again.
Today starts another week of practice. I expect two main plots to unfold as the Rams get ready for their preseason opener on Saturday. First, how does the team react to the weekend's excitement? Having seen the potential, look for the players to ratchet things up a notch or two. Second, watch what Bradford does in practice this week. He will get reps against the Vikings on Saturday, but with the starters facing Minnesota's starters? Even though it's just preseason, it's no small test.
For now, go forth and share the enthusiasm. It's exciting to be a Rams fan again.