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Captain Title Means More to Bradford Than Player of the Week

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –Sam Bradford's goals are team-oriented, not individual-oriented.

Which is why he's much more proud of being named one of six team captains than he is of being named NFC Offensive Player of the Week in the wake of his Monday night performance.

"It's cool," Bradford nonchalantly told Twin Cities media members Wednesday, shrugging. "If you get named that, you played well and you helped your team win. But the win and starting the season 1-0, that was the biggest thing of the week."

When asked about the title of captain, however, Bradford believes the role holds much more weight.

"That's something that I actually take a lot of pride in," said Bradford, who last was a team captain with the Rams in 2013. "To be named a captain and know that I'm one of the leaders in this locker room and on this football team, it means a lot.

"I think there's a lot of responsibility that comes with that, and I'm going to do everything I can to make sure I live up to that," Bradford added.

The quarterback said the relationships he's built with teammates over the past 53 weeks since arriving in Minnesota have enabled him to be a take a more active leadership role.

"I think having been here for a year with our guys and just building those relationships, I think it's a lot easier to be more vocal," Bradford said. "I think they're more comfortable with me now, I'm more comfortable with them, and whether it be at practice or in a game, if I see something or feel like we need to talk about something, I'm a lot more comfortable going up to everyone and just making sure that it gets communicated. As opposed to last year, I was just trying to figure out what I was doing and trying to figure out, make sure that I wasn't messing everything up."

When asked about Bradford's leadership style and being more vocal with the team, tight end Kyle Rudolph smiled.

" 'More vocal' is a very, very loose term with Sam," Rudolph said with a chuckle. "He's always going to be one that leads by example, but I think you're able to see it through the game on Monday. He always has that fire and emotion, especially on game day. He brings a little bit more energy than right when he got here last year because I think he's comfortable around everyone now, and we're able to see that kind of shine through."

In the same way Bradford's comfort level with his peers has increased, so has his comfort in the offense.

The 2017 offseason was Bradford's second in which he was injury free and working with the same offensive coordinator (beginning when Pat Shurmur took over in the role last November) as the previous season.

"Also just kind of getting older, being year eight and having played as many games as I have, I think I'm just more comfortable with my preparation during the week and what I need to do to … feel l'm ready to go on Sundays," Bradford said. "But with Pat and this offense, I would say that it's probably as comfortable as I've felt."

After spending time with Shurmur in each of the three cities he's played in, Bradford no longer feels like he's overthinking on the field.

"It allows you to go out there and just play," Bradford said. "It eliminates some of the thinking, where you go out there and just react. And I think when you're able to do that, you're able to play fast, you're able to play quick, and it just kind of frees you up a little bit."

Bradford's message was demonstrated Monday when he threw for almost as many touchdowns as he had incompletions: 27-of-32 passing for 346 yards, three touchdowns and a career-high passer rating of 143.0.

The play caller was also asked specifically about how much freedom he has to make checks at the line of scrimmage and his ability to do so. Bradford spoke again about his fluency in the offense and said Shurmur has "always given [him] freedom" to change a call at the line if necessary.

The number of times Bradford reverts to that, however, is very low.

"Honesty, you hope that you call the right play. And that's why we watch film, that's why we prepare, that's why we game plan and feel like what we're calling is going to work," Bradford said. "And then if, for some reason, they throw something unexpected at us or we get a look that is going to take away the primary concept, then that's when you get to something [different]."

During film study leading up to each opponent, Bradford will mentally file away a few ideas for each coverage a defense could present.

"Usually you have a few ideas going into the week of a handful of concepts that, 'Hey, if we see this coverage, this play would be good,' or 'if we see this coverage, this play would be good,' " Bradford said. "If you go into it and you don't really have an idea, and you're like, 'I'll just figure it out at the line and pick from something in the playbook,' I think that's a little bit more difficult."

Bradford will prepare the same way for Minnesota's upcoming game at Pittsburgh.

The Vikings offense could have their hands full with a dynamic and proven Steelers defense.

"They're a very good football team, very good defense," Bradford said. "[It's their] home opener – I'm sure it's going to be a pretty rowdy environment.

"Just from watching their tape, they're pretty multiple in their looks," he added. "They throw a lot at you, so we're going to have to be able to recognize a lot. So I think this week will definitely be a challenge for us."

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