Rams offensive line looks to protect Bradford

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Now that the St. Louis Rams have settled on rookie Sam Bradford at quarterback, it's up to an offensive line that's been a focus of the rebuilding effort to protect the No. 1 pick.

It starts with Sunday's home opener against Arizona.

Center Jason Brown acknowledged all eyes will be on the offensive line to see how well they do the job protecting Bradford.

''There's more pressure than you will ever know,'' Brown said. ''We take pride in it and we want to make sure he stays on his feet and make sure he has plenty of time in the pocket to make his reads downfield.''

The middle of the line is composed of veterans - Brown and guards Jacob Bell and Adam Goldberg. Second-round draft pick Roger Saffold is at left tackle and second-year player Jason Smith, last year's No. 2 overall pick, has moved over to right tackle after an injury-plagued rookie season.

''We're coming together as a unit and our health has been good lately,'' Brown said. ''We need to stay healthy.''

The Rams made Bradford the No. 1 overall pick in the draft and made a huge investment in the 2008 Heisman winner. Bradford signed a six-year, $78 million contract with $50 million in guaranteed money and Sunday he begins to earn it against the Cardinals.

Brown said he feels a special connection to Bradford as his center.

''Definitely. He doesn't put his hands under anyone else's bottom but mine,'' Brown said. ''That's how it all starts.''

The other linemen feel protective of Bradford, too.

''There's always pressure on offensive lineman,'' right guard Adam Goldberg said. ''When things go bad, it's our fault and when things go good, no one cares. There's always pressure on us, no matter who gets the ball.

''Sam is a very impressive young man. He's very good with the ball but his intangibles are good, too. What he does without the ball, what he does in the huddle and what he does in meeting room is impressive. He's a real special player.''

Playing together helps the line, Goldberg said. The line played together in the final two preseason games and the offense clicked, despite running back Stephen Jackson playing sparingly.

''There's a comfort level in playing with the guys next to you. You know what they're going to do,'' Goldberg said. ''We have good communication with each other. It's been nice to line up the same five across the last couple of weeks and hopefully we keep that momentum rolling into the regular season. We're going to roll with this group.''

The tackles are inexperienced. Smith missed most of his rookie season with injuries and a concussion. Still, Goldberg said he will do his job.

''Jason's a good young player,'' Goldberg said. ''It's good to have us together on that side and have a good working dynamic there. We have a nice mix on this line. We're well-coached. We work hard. All five us have to work together and we do.''

Saffold knows he's in the hot spot at left tackle. Being a rookie, opposing defenses will be trying to exploit him and get to Bradford to disrupt the offense.

''The best thing about being an offensive lineman is you've got to love the challenge,'' Saffold said. ''Being a rookie, I know they've got me kind of circled so they'll be trying to go their hardest at me to get to the quarterback. They'll be trying to go through a rookie to get to a rookie.''

It's been a growing process, Saffold said. He believes he's made a lot of progress since training camp opened.

''It was rough in the beginning of camp,'' Saffold said. ''I was stepping on Jacob Bell's toes. Now, it's becoming easier and easier. I understand a lot more.''

Tagged: Rams, Jacob Bell, Adam Goldberg, Jason Brown, Jason Smith, Sam Bradford

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