April 5, 2009

Bradford back at home on practice field

NORMAN, Okla. - Sam Bradford is home again standing inside the hallways of the visiting locker room at Oklahoma's Memorial Stadium.

There are no speeches to be made, no honors to accept and no life-changing decisions left to be made, at least not on this day. On this day, Bradford is just propped up against a wall, talking with reporters about life back on the football field.

And there appears to be a comfort level in Bradford not seen since before the whirlwind of fame was thrust upon him. The quarterback seems to be comfortable in his skin once again.

"I'm getting hit more?" Bradford bristled when told of wide receiver Ryan Broyles comments that he wasn't receiving the type of protection he received a year ago from his offensive line. "It's probably a little bit of an exaggeration."

Bradford never seems to enjoy the spotlight he endures as the face of Oklahoma football. But get him talking about his teammates, and he'll beam with pride at their progress in spring practices.

"I think Ryan's done a great job," Bradford said of Broyles. "It's not easy. He played pretty much all in the slot last year and right now he's playing almost all outside."

And how about redshirt freshman offensive center, Ben Habern, who is expected to replace Bradford's right-hand man Jon Cooper next season? Habern has been having some ups and downs this spring. Bradford, however, immediately talks about Habern's strongest points and says how he can be a special player for the Sooners.

"He's doing really good," Bradford said. "He's extremely strong. You watch him in the weight room and he's probably one of the strongest guys on the team."

This has always been Bradford's comfort zone, playing football and talking about his teammates.

The Heisman Trophy winner knows there are bigger and better things for him outside of being Oklahoma's starting quarterback. He has his own shortcomings to improve upon. But Bradford is never about himself, unless you ask.

One of the biggest hurdles Bradford will have to overcome is something which was brought up during pre-draft evaluations - his frame.

Bradford is a tall quarterback with an outstanding arm. But heading into the NFL, Bradford is still a bit slight of frame. That's one of the things he'll be concentrating on heading into next season.

And it's not just about the NFL, with a revamped offensive line, Bradford might have to take some punishment next season. A little extra heft couldn't hurt.

"That's tough," Bradford said of where his ideal weight should be. "I'd like to get, hopefully, to between 225 and 230 before the next season. I'm about 220 right now so with five or eight more pounds, I'd be pretty happy."


With the loss of two-year starters Juaquin Iglesias and Manuel Johnson, Bradford's main focus this spring will be developing his wide receiver unit. Broyles continues to be a major part of that rebuilding plan for the 2009 season, but youngsters such as Dejuan Miller and Jameel Owens are also a part of Bradford's every day progression with his group.

"They're starting to progress and I'm seeing some things, certain plays," Bradford said. "It's not just running from Point A to Point B. They actually have to read something and read coverages, and I feel like we're starting to get on the same page as far as what we see in the secondary."

There have been plenty of ups and downs during spring football to make things interesting for Bradford. The biggest down has been the weather.

Until Saturday, the Sooners had been frozen out of any major scrimmages. High winds and frigid temperatures have kept the Sooners practicing indoors. The indoor facility in Norman is a full football field, but the sidelines are tight and coach Bob Stoops doesn't let his team go full scrimmage indoors because of the spacing.

The lack of scrimmage time has been a bit frustrating for Bradford this spring.

"We were supposed to scrimmage twice and we haven't been able to get out there," Bradford said. "We'll see how it goes. It will be good to get out there and see some guys going full contact."


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