Just in time for a trip to his hometown of Cleveland, it looks like Rodger Saffold is ready to play for the Rams.
Saffold suffered a “stinger” in his left shoulder just before the team’s FanFest on Aug. 2 at the Edward Jones Dome.
“I think what happened was I got hit from two different angles on one bad spot and just caught a stinger,” Saffold said after Tuesday’s practice at Rams Park.
A stinger basically is a stinging sensation in the neck and shoulder area. It can be very painful and can sometimes linger. The party line at Rams Park is that this particular injury was minor, and the Rams were simply being cautious.
Given Saffold’s history of shoulder issues — as a free agent he failed a physical with the Oakland Raiders — it makes sense to play it safe. The Rams want him for the long haul this season. Whether he plays much in August doesn’t mean much in the big picture.
“It was nowhere near as bad as last time,” Saffold said, apparently referring to an injury last preseason. “But as a coach, you want to make sure to take care of your players. They’ve seen you play, so they know what you can do.
“So they were like, ‘Hey, why don’t you just sit this one out? Let’s just make sure that you’re good so we don’t get any future problems.’ “
Not only did Saffold sit out the first preseason game against New Orleans; he was a spectator for the Green Bay game as well.
On Tuesday he returned to practice for the first time in 2½ weeks but was active only in individual drills. He did no 11-on-11, or “team,” drills. With just two full practices left before the team travels to Cleveland for Saturday’s third preseason game, common sense says Saffold will need some 11-on-11 work before being thrown into exhibition play.
Saffold already is lobbying head athletic trainer Reggie Scott to get in the lineup against the Browns.
“I know you say preseason doesn’t really matter, but you just want to compete,” Saffold said. “It’s just the type person that you are. I’m doing everything extra-safe, but at the end of the day I just can’t wait for the season.”
Saffold doesn’t know at this point if he’s playing Saturday, let alone how much he’ll play. He said the only thing he hears from Scott is that he’s day-to-day.
“I’m the type of guy that’s going to force the issue,” Saffold said. “So we’ll just see how good his willpower is these next four days.”
So Saffold might try to wear him down, as if Scott is a pass-rusher huffing and puffing by the fourth quarter.
“Absolutely,” Saffold said. “I’ll punch him in the chest.”
Just joking there. Then again, since he has yet to play in the preseason, Saffold bemoaned the fact that “I’m probably the only person here that hasn’t hit another person off of this team. I’m itching to hit somebody else.”
Reporters then volunteered one of their brethren as a potential human tackling dummy, but Saffold didn’t jump at that offer.
Saffold says he doesn’t feel rusty because he has been doing a lot of running and other work while sidelined.
“I know they want to be super cautious, and that’s fine,” he said. “At the end of the day, I’ve been working since I got hurt. So really, I hope this transition back onto the field won’t be that big of a transition. I feel in shape. I feel rested. I’m good all the way around.”
Even though right guard remains a relatively new position for him, Saffold says he has gotten enough work during OTAs and the early part of training camp that he can get his technique back fairly easily. The playbook isn’t a problem, because this is the third year in offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer’s offense.
Nonetheless, cohesion and chemistry are as important on the offensive line as anywhere on the football field. And except for about a dozen or two snaps during the days before Saffold’s injury, the starting offensive line has not worked together as a group throughout camp. That’s practice time as well as preseason contests.
But the O-line is getting closer to that elusive reunion. Center Scott Wells made his preseason debut against the Packers. Left tackle Jake Long is expected to make his exhibition debut against the Browns.
Will Saffold be out there against Cleveland?
“Of course I plan on playing, man,” Saffold said.
Scott may have different ideas.
In the preseason opener against the Saints, the Rams had nine starters sidelined. The number shrank to five against the Packers. If Saffold plays, there’s a chance that all 22 starters could be in action against Cleveland.
Besides Saffold, defensive tackle Michael Brockers returned to practice Tuesday, and unlike Saffold did both individual and 11-on-11 work. Brockers suffered a sprained ankle during the FanFest session, and until Tuesday, hadn’t practiced since.
Coach Jeff Fisher said Brockers practiced “like he hadn’t been hurt. I’d say that’s a good sign.”
Cornerback Janoris Jenkins (hamstring) also practiced Tuesday after being held out of the Green Bay game. Linebacker James Laurinaitis (ankle), who has been sidelined since getting stepped on 2½ weeks ago, was in uniform Tuesday but only worked on the side. He did not practice.
“We’ve not ruled him out for this week’s game,” Fisher said. “He’s turned the corner and he was moving pretty well.”