The Not-So-Long Road Back
With apologies to the No. 2 overall pick in last month’s NFL draft, Greg Robinson, another crown-jewel offensive lineman has attracted the most attention in the Rams’ first two weeks of OTA practices.
Barely five months into his rehabilitation from ACL and MCL surgery, left tackle Jake Long is turning heads in Earth City – and holding out ample hope he will play in the squad’s regular-season opener on Sept. 7.
“That’s the goal,” Long said. “As long as I keep progressing and don’t have any setbacks. That’s what we’ve talked about ever since we had the surgery. We sat down and looked at the schedule and talked through the rehab session and said if it’s going well and we’re doing good then that could be our goal. I think we’re on pace for that, so that’s what we’re shooting for.”
Not only does the four-time Pro Bowler continue to work on the side with trainers, he also partakes in team walkthrough drills. It’s a fairly extension routine for someone whose right knee underwent major trauma in St. Louis’ penultimate game of 2013.
“I’m pretty happy,” Long said. “Every single week we try to introduce something more and more, and I just get more strength, I get smoother at my pass sets and coming off the ball. I’m really excited and happy with how I’m progressing.”
“Big Easy” Does It – Sparingly
Long’s frequent offseason rehab partner, Sam Bradford, won’t be in any danger of wearing out his right arm during training camp. Yet the starting signal-caller keeps shouldering more and more responsibilities in the process of making his own comeback from a knee operation.
“Yeah, I think Coach (Jeff Fisher) plans to allow me to participate in about half of them (OTAs). I sat down with (offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer) “Schotty” and we kind of look at the different OTAs and what’s going in in each OTA and what we felt was most important and the ones that he thought I needed to be a part of and that I thought I needed to be a part of. That’s kind of our plan right now.”
Bradford was on pace for his best season as a pro in 2013 before tearing his ACL in a Week 7 contest against the Carolina Panthers. The experience proved haunting and, eventually, cathartic.
“You don’t realize how much you enjoy playing football until it’s taken away from you,” Bradford said. “The hardest thing last year was showing up on Sundays and there not being a jersey in my locker. Having to sit on the sidelines and watch, that’s a really helpless feeling.
“Just to be out there again, throwing one-on-ones, throwing seven-on sevens … it seems like such a small thing, but when I wasn’t able to do it for so long, it’s just really a relief to be back out there doing it again.
Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’
Brash and outspoken, Kenny Britt cuts a completely different figure than most of the Rams’ wide receivers. And such traits are only heightening the buzz surrounding arguably the club’s most instrumental spring acquisition.
Britt, formerly of the Tennessee Titans, possesses good size (6-3, 225 pounds) and the ability to catch the ball away from his frame. He embraces confrontation, too, as cornerback Trumaine Johnson recently discovered.
The early returns, though, show support for adding a little bombast to a largely conservative group on one side of the line of scrimmage.
“What I love about Kenny is that he brings a great energy,” middle linebacker James Laurinaitis said. “The defense, we’re always kind of speaking our mind. We’re very talkative. We like to talk a little crap to the offense, and he’s the one guy who’s brought a lot of energy to them. And that’s a beautiful thing.”
Fisher, who oversaw the first three seasons of Britt’s career in Nashville, was quick to echo similar sentiments and diffuse concerns about the Rutgers product’s oft-injured knee.
“He’s a very emotional kid,” Fisher said. “He’s an emotional receiver. He looks the part and he can make the plays. I was really happy to see him come on. He kept himself in really good shape during the free agency period. He’s had no setbacks, feels great physically. He could potentially return to where he was, a very productive receiver.”
United We Stand
Patience is a virtue, indeed, at least as regards the Rams’ annual approach to signing rookies.
On Thursday, the organization finalized deals with all 11 of their draft picks, including Robinson and fellow first-rounder Aaron Donald.
Terms were not immediately disclosed, but Fisher had few reservations about issuing a group announcement for the second successive year.
“With the new rookie cap and everything it’s not really difficult to get the deals done,” Fisher said. “So we just felt like this time would be better served, putting them in the situations from an educational standpoint, financial planning and those kinds of things. We’ve done a lot of that.”
St. Louis had been the lone team in the NFL not to ink any members of its 2014 class.