St. Louis Rams: Spring Forward, Falling Back...

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Cutting across the edges of emotions isn't an easy thing. St. Louis Rams fans were hit hard by the loss of Sam Bradford to a season ending ACL injury yesterday. Made worse by the chaotic game against Carolina, fans have been left to reel and wonder. But it's the way of the NFL, and there's no warning label to gird us for unknowns to come. Players across the league have fallen to injury in this - and every - NFL season. The teams deal with it, and so will we fans as the dust settles, and Darwinian absolutes push us onward...

You know what I love the most? It's how fans who are for, or against, a player - for any number of reasons - come together when he's injured. Yes, there will be the coldhearted out there who'll cheer, instead of lament a player falling to the turf in pain. But the vast majority will evidence their humanity; tears, oft times mixed with anger, will subtly blend with silent cries of "Why?"...

Taking statistics and arm chair quarterbacking babbles out, let's look at Sam Bradford for a second. Can anyone tell me they've seen anything but an openly kind, talented kid who loves the game of football? I didn't think so, and it's why his injury has hit this fan base so incredibly hard. The thing is - whether you knew it or not - we all actually LIKE Sam Bradford. What's not to like? This quiet, unassuming young man - who's had little, if any, luck since being picked 1st overall in 2010 NFL Draft - showed up to work every day. He looked into TV cameras after losing so many games, a lessor man would have given into dark moods and angst. The last of the highly paid rookies due to the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement, there had to be times when he wondered if it was all worth it. Maybe not, since I just don't see Samuel Jacob Bradford whining about anything.

For the last four years, this young man should have lived in fear for his life when he stepped on the field each Sunday. He's been battered, and beaten into the turf by hyper-thyroid muscle men. He's been second guessed as to his ability to be an elite NFL quarterback by everyone under the sun. Bradford's seen coaches, owners, and teammates flow in and out of his world as a professional football player, which is the lot in life for anyone in the NFL. But ALL of this has happened in so short a time, that Bradford must have felt light headed at times, and wondered if this was all some kind of sick joke? "Another offense to learn? GREAT! So, you're saying I DON'T need a quarterback coach? Er, uh... OK...? The whole front office and coaching staff has been fired, and we have a new owner who may or may not be moving the team to another city? (lower lip begins to quiver...) Really?"

With all this, Sam Bradford has remained classy beyond his years, and it's why - when he was injured - Rams fans took it so very hard, and rightly so. This season, he came out of the starting blocks like the rest of the team. Young, talented and excitable to the point that blocking the front or back of an opposing player was all one, the team had growing pains. When the team faltered, the crush of fan dismay fell on Bradford's wide shoulders. Surely the reason ROOKIE Tavon Austin hasn't scored 38 touchdown in the first weeks of the season was that over-hyped, over-paid, Sam Bradford? How hard is to catch the ball? It must be that damn un-elite bastard at quarterback? Taken in stride with all he's been through to date, Sam looked reporters squarely in the eyes and said his team would get better, and never threw a teammate under the bus for miscues. He believes in his team and coaches, and I can't help but think it's why guys like Harvey Dahl went nuts when his young field general lay writhing in pain on the sidelines this past Sunday. This injury to a young man Rams fans all like, respect and admire, hit them hard. It should, because Sam Bradford is the kind of goofy kid we all like and want to call friend.

If I'm right - and I know in my heart I am - Sam Bradford will heal, and comeback to his teammates renewed. He'll throw bullet straight passes to receivers, who'll drop the ball on occasion. The Sam we all have come to know will shake his head, maybe pass on a few words of advice or encouragement to the offender, and then say: "Huddle up!" He may even call the same receiver's number again, and confidently throw his way. If Sam Bradford has anything to pass on to Rams fans about the current quarterback situation facing the team he loves, it will probably start of with a calm look, and fade into a smile. Then he'd look into the eyes of every Rams fan and say... "Huddle Up!"

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