ST. LOUIS (AP) -- A.J. Feeley's thumb injury put No. 1 draft pick Sam Bradford on the fast track.
The rookie from Oklahoma gets his first start with the St. Louis Rams this week by default, and with two preseason games to go he has a chance to seize the position that everybody knows will be his eventually.
"There's no doubt in my mind that he will lead this team," safety Oshiomoghe Atogwe said. "He has to play and he has to get a feel and make this offense his own offense, and that takes time.
"Whenever that does happen, it's full speed ahead."
The Rams have a short week with only two practices before playing Thursday night at New England. Feeley wouldn't have been ready in any case because of a sprained right thumb, and he also has elbow soreness.
Coach Steve Spagnuolo said Feeley wouldn't practice this week and didn't know about next week. Grip will be the issue.
"If it was another position you might be able to get away with wrapping it and playing," Spagnuolo said. "But throwing a football is a little bit different. It will be a comfort thing for him."
Wide receiver Danario Alexander, a second team All-American at Missouri who signed with the Rams on Sunday night, was on the field Monday. He's unlikely to play Thursday, given he's still learning the playbook.
"The scheme, that will take a little while," Spagnuolo said. "He has a long way to go, he has a lot to catch up."
The 33-year-old Feeley has been the starter since camp opened based on experience, even though he has only 15 career starts in 10 seasons. He played well in the second preseason game, throwing a touchdown pass after he was hurt.
"It's one of those things where it went numb for a little bit and I figured in a couple plays it would loosen up," Feeley said. "When you're in the heat of the battle you never want to come off the field."
Spagnuolo didn't know how many plays Bradford would get against the Patriots. The Rams will script the first 15 plays.
"It's a mindset now," Spagnuolo said. "There's a little bit of an adjustment when you're coming in as a starter or when you're coming in second or third series, but I don't think Sam will see it any differently."
Feeley was hurt when he struck the helmet of a blitzing defender on the followthrough of a throw in the first quarter. He was with other injured players on a side field during Monday's practice, with a protective covering on his right hand and a compression sleeve covering the elbow.
Feeley said he was being held out as a precaution.
"It's a little bit of a strain. Rest and a little treatment and I should be good to go pretty soon," Feeley said.
In the meantime, he'll be happy to serve as mentor to Bradford, who was only 6 for 14 for 24 yards playing in driving rain at Cleveland.
"I'm going to be there with him the whole time to try to get him ready," Feeley said. "He's coming along, he'll be fine. He just needs to relax and play his game."
Bradford was not made available to the media. He's scheduled to talk to reporters on Tuesday.
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