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Bradford not optimistic about playing in finale

Bradford not optimistic about playing in finale

December 29th, 2011 by R.B. FALLSTROM, AP Sports Writer in News

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Sam Bradford is not expected to play in the St. Louis Rams' finale.

The quarterback missed another practice Wednesday and didn't appear optimistic about his chances against the San Francisco 49ers. The biggest change, rather than the high left ankle sprain that has already sidelined him for five games, was the fact he was clean shaven after growing a beard since the start of November.

"It's still now where I think our training staff would like it to be," Bradford said. "This week was really the first time we had really done much and to be honest it didn't feel great in the little that we did do."

Bradford said he pushed it on Monday and Tuesday with trainers and the ankle didn't respond well, and appeared only somewhat hopeful it would improve enough by game day. It was noticeable just walking that Bradford was favoring the left ankle.

"It just didn't feel right, so we're not going to do anything until we get over that hump," coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "But we're still optimistic that maybe we can get him there."

It's unlikely the Rams (2-13) will give Bradford any practice reps until Friday, and then only if he clears it with the trainers. He made a quick comeback after missing two games in midseason, making four consecutive starts, but since reinjuring the ankle has played in only one of the past four games.

"Yeah, it's been very frustrating," Bradford said. "Especially the fact that I was able to come back and play three or four games and it was getting better. It was starting to feel better. It was starting to feel like it was, obviously not normal, but getting closer to normal. Then after the second time that I reinjured it, it's just really never overcome that."

Bradford was the NFL offensive rookie of the year on last year's 7-9 team that played for the NFC West championship in the final week, but this season has only six touchdown passes to go with six interceptions.

The team has been ravaged by injuries, losing top receiver Danny Amendola in the opener and with three linemen finishing the season on injured reserve, and Bradford has taken his lumps in new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels' system, which has a lot of longer-developing pass plays than the Rams had in 2010 under Pat Shurmur.

St. Louis has scored an NFL-low 166 points and could land the No. 1 draft pick for the second time in three seasons if the Rams lose their seventh in a row and the Colts win at Jacksonville.

It'll be several more weeks before backup A.J. Feeley's fractured thumb heals to the point he can grip a football, so Kellen Clemens could get his third straight start on Sunday.

Clemens passed for just 91 yards in last week's 27-0 loss at Pittsburgh as the Rams squandered their few scoring opportunities against one of the NFL's top defenses. He threw for 229 yards and a touchdown the previous week in a 20-13 loss to the Bengals, but is about to face another stingy unit with the 49ers surrendering a league-low 13.5 point average.

The Rams have scored only 15 touchdowns all season and are averaging just 11 points, but Clemens is happy for the opportunity given he's getting his first starting shot in two seasons and would be making just his 12th start in six NFL seasons if he gets the call on Sunday.

"Since we were 5 and 6 years old you don't really come out here to practice, you come out to play," Clemens said. "That's what we love to do, so that's what I've enjoyed over the last couple weeks, having an opportunity to play and be a part of this organization."

Clemens said he's not looking at this as an extended audition, or a chance to leave a positive impression.

"I don't think past San Francisco right now," he said. "Everything else plays itself out over the offseason which gives you weeks and months to think about it."

Both of his NFL seasons Bradford has been among several Rams sprouting whiskers in November. He let the beard grow until earlier this week when he felt he had to make a cleaner presentation for an NFL commercial to be aired during Super Bowl week in which he, middle linebacker James Laurinaitis and defensive end Chris Long all did some singing.

"I felt like having the beard probably wouldn't be the best look for me, so I thought it was time to shave," Bradford said. "I don't know about funny. It's us singing so I guess it's comical. It was fun, it was a good experience."

Long was limited in practice, a step forward after missing most practice time the past several weeks while nursing a left ankle sprain. Outside linebacker Brady Poppinga was sent home with illness.

Tight end Ben Guidugli was promoted to the roster after spending the entire season on the practice squad.