DALLAS -- Top draft choice, top rookie.
The first overall selection in last year's draft, Bradford guided the Rams from the embarrassment of a 1-15 record to a 7-9 mark. In the weak NFC West, that was good enough to contend for the division title; St. Louis lost out on a tiebreaker to Seattle.
"I think the more I'm out there, the more comfortable I become," Bradford said. "It's been like that all year. There's been some ups, there's been some downs, but I feel like for the most part I've learned from my mistakes each week. I think the game's stating to slow down a little bit, but I really still have a long way to go before I'm as comfortable as I want to be."
The voters certainly were comfortable with Bradford's passing and leadership.
He earned 44 votes from a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the league. Only two other rookies received votes: Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Williams earned four, and Pittsburgh center Maurkice Pouncey had two.
Bradford is the fourth quarterback since 2004 to win the award. Before that, no quarterbacks had won it.
"If you asked me before the season, I probably wouldn't have said that we would have thrown the ball as much," Bradford said. "As a quarterback, you love to throw the football. So the fact that our coaching staff feels comfortable with the ball in my hands just gives me confidence. It makes me feel very good about going out there on Sundays."
Health was one of the major questions about Bradford when he came out of college.
Associated Press NFL Awards
MVP: Tom Brady
Defensive Player of the Year: Troy Polamalu
Offensive Player of the Year: Tom Brady
Coach of the Year: Bill Belichick
Comeback Player of the Year: Michael Vick
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Sam Bradford
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Ndamukong Suh
• AP All-Pro Team: Brady unanimous
He won the 2008 Heisman Trophy as a redshirt sophomore, when the Sooners lost to Florida for the national championship, then decided to stay at Oklahoma another season. It was cut short by an early shoulder injury and he barely played in 2009. Still, Bradford so impressed pro scouts in postseason workouts that he was a consensus No. 1 pick.
The questions about his durability remained, and he answered them by taking every snap this season. He threw 590 passes, completing 60 percent for 18 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
"I take a lot in that, especially coming off the shoulder injury last year and knowing that there were a lot of questions about my durability, about my ability to take hits in this league," Bradford said. "So the fact that I've been able to take every snap with this offense, I do take a lot of pride in that."
Bradford became the starter in training camp and never looked over that shoulder. Coach Steve Spagnuolo and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur placed their faith in him, and he came through like, well, a rookie of the year.
It didn't begin well -- Bradford threw three interceptions and was sacked twice in a 17-13 loss to Arizona. But he began to hit his stride in midseason, at one point going four straight games and five of six without being picked off.
His best performances came in a 36-33 win over Denver, when he had three TD passes and a season-best 308 yards through the air, and in a 20-10 win over Carolina that featured 25-of-32 passing and two touchdowns.
"He's obviously extremely talented, and I think he works his fanny off to make sure that he does the right things and masters the game plan," said Shurmur, now the head coach in Cleveland. "So to say I would be surprised, I would say no.
"To be thankful that he is what he is, I would say yes."
Williams, a fourth-round pick (101 overall) from Syracuse, had 65 catches for 964 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. Pouncey, the rare offensive lineman to collect votes, was a standout in helping the Steelers win the AFC North title.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
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