For the first time since suffering a knee injury early in a Week 2 loss in Atlanta, right tackle Rodger Saffold is off the Rams’ injured list and back on the practice field.
“I feel fine, probably between 90 and 100 percent,’’ Saffold said Thursday after completing his second full practice of the week. “I’m comfortable, the knee brace is working fine — nothing shifting, nothing moving. Basically, just getting the kinks out.’’
It has been an eventful and sometimes trying fourth professional season for Saffold, 25, who was selected by the Rams with the first pick of the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft.
With the free-agent signing of four-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long, the Rams shifted Saffold from left to right tackle, a transition that some have likened to learning to write with the opposite hand.
Then, just two plays into the preseason opener in Cleveland, Saffold went down with a dislocated shoulder. He recovered quickly, missing just one preseason game, but went down again midway through the second quarter in Atlanta with a sprained MCL.
“It’s my first week back with the offense. It’s tough, but I continue to see things getting better in the future,’’ he said. “What I like to do is go out before practice and work on a couple of drills on my own, trying to get my steps right, to get my hands right. ... Once I can go out and prove my knee is working properly, I think (the coaches will) be more comfortable with me going in.’’
The Rams are bringing Saffold along slowly; both he and his replacement, Joe Barksdale, have been getting reps at right tackle in practice.
“We’re fired up that he’s back — he’s doing a good job — and we’ll see how the practice week goes,’’ Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. “But again, whoever we put out there, they’re going to know the plan and they’re going to play it well. I think (Barksdale’s) done very well. He’s been a big part of our success the last couple of weeks, running the ball, and there’s certainly something to chemistry. But that group is a bunch of veterans; they plug in and whoever gets called, they’re always ready to go.’’
Saffold is anxious for a chance to regain his starting spot.
“I’ve taken some reps; I expect to play (in Carolina on Sunday),’’ said Saffold, whose contract runs through the end of the season. “At the same time, it’s going to be (the coaches’) decision and if they feel like they’re putting me in harm’s way, they’re not going to put me in.
“Once they see that I can do the job effectively, on the game field, I think they’ll be more comfortable and understand I’m ready.’’
Rookie running Zac Stacy and veteran defensive end Chris Long returned to practice and received a decent amount of work on Thursday.
Stacy (chest) and Long (thigh) sat out practice on Wednesday. Linebacker Daren Bates (hip) also returned to practice after being limited to just a warm up on Tuesday.
The only Rams to miss practice on Thursday were veteran cornerback Cortland Finnegan (hamstring) and rookie running back/kick returner Benny Cunningham (ankle).
For Carolina, reserve cornerback D.J. Moore (knee) sat out practice Thursday. Starting defensive tackle Dwan Edwards (hamstring), starting tight end Greg Olsen (foot) and back-up corner Melvin White (concussion) were limited while safety Robert Lester (hamstring) and running back Kenjon Barner (foot) were full participants in practice Thursday.
RAMS SUPPORT MILITARY
The Rams are teaming with Boeing and the USO of Missouri to provide 1,500 tickets to the team’s military appreciation game Nov. 3 against the Tennessee Titans. The tickets will go to military members and their families.
The Rams and Boeing are also making another allotment of tickets available for military members and their families as well as veterans at a discounted price for the Nov. 3 game.
For more information, visit www.usomissouri.org.