RESERVATIONS FOR SIX: Bradford’s injury serves as warning

Oklahoma junior quarterback Sam Bradford probably woke up Sunday wondering why he did not declare for last year’s NFL draft.

The reigning Heisman Trophy winner has had a dismal season for a Sooners team that has fallen to 3-3.

Bradford has been injured on two separate occasions this season. The first came when Bradford sprained his throwing shoulder in Oklahoma’s season opener, a 14-13 loss to Associated Press No. 20 Brigham Young University.

The shoulder sprain was severe enough that Bradford went on to miss the next three games. Oklahoma won two of them, but lost 21-20 on the road against No. 17 Miami.

Bradford returned two weeks ago and completed 27-of-49 passes for 389 yards and one touchdown in the Sooners’ 33-7 win over Baylor.

By all accounts, Bradford was told he could not further injure his shoulder by playing, and may have felt he was in the clear.

Unfortunately for Bradford, he did reinjure his shoulder in Saturday’s 16-13 loss to No. 3 Texas. Just like that, the tale of a sure top-10 pick passing up millions to pursue a national championship took the sourest of turns.

Those who once applauded Bradford’s decision to stay in college will now cite his situation as a prime example of why players should cash in on their collegiate success as soon as they have the opportunity to do so.

So what comes next for Bradford? He has already been ruled out for this week’s game at No. 25 Kansas, and his recent comments make it seem as though he has played his last game in a Sooners uniform.

While the Sooners’ season is toast, the team will rebound and reload. Freshman Landry Jones will certainly benefit from the experience he has gained during Bradford’s absence.

When trying to make a case for why student athletes should stay in school, a prime example would be the 2009 North Carolina men’s basketball team.

The team’s starting five all decided to return for a title run, and they ended up winning a national championship, giving their story a happy ending.

Football and basketball, however, are completely different animals. Football is an inherently violent sport, and its players have much shorter average career lives.

Bradford was on top of the college football world at the end of the 2008 season. He won the Heisman Trophy and had thrown for a school-record 4,720 yards and 50 touchdowns.

After almost beating Florida in the BCS National Championship Game, Bradford may have developed a feeling of invincibility, which may in turn have clouded his long-term vision.

Bradford would have been a top-10 pick – if not the top pick overall – in the 2009 NFL Draft. Instead, the Detroit Lions took Matthew Stafford No. 1 overall, and he banked a record $41.7 million in guaranteed money.

Mark Sanchez, who opted to forgo his senior season at USC, was taken with the sixth overall pick by the Jets. They were so desperate for Sanchez’s services that they traded up from the 17th spot to take him at No. 5. Surely with the season Bradford had and with his upside, he would have been taken ahead of at least one of those players, if not both.
Bradford’s injury may have cost him millions of dollars in the 2010 NFL Draft.

An injury-prone player may scare off teams, and Bradford will also now be competing with a much stronger draft class of quarterbacks. Colt McCoy and Tim Tebow are each one year better, and when the rest of the field is added in, Bradford’s prospects become even slimmer.

Hopefully Bradford’s injury heals and doesn’t affect his professional career, but at this point, the next pass he throws should be in front of scouts at the 2010 NFL Combine.

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