It’s official. The 2014 football season is over for Rams running back and special teamer Isaiah Pead.
In a meeting with reporters Sunday afternoon, coach Jeff Fisher confirmed that Pead, a third-year pro, suffered a torn ACL in his left knee while returning a first-quarter kickoff Saturday in the team’s 21-7 loss to the Green Bay Packers at the Edward Jones Dome.
Fisher called the injury unfortunate.
“He worked very, very hard to get in the position to where he was a very productive special teamer for us, and we had high hopes for him doing some things out of the backfield as well,” the coach said.
Selected in the second round (50th overall) of the 2012 draft from the University of Cincinnati, Pead was the Big East offensive player of the year as a senior. But the 5-foot-10, 197-pounder has never reached that level here. In two seasons with the Rams, he made one start and played in 25 games. He had 75 yards rushing on 17 carries to go along with 14 catches for 94 yards. In addition, he returned 14 kickoffs for 350 yards.
But Pead, who was suspended for the 2013 season opener for violating the NFL’s policy on substance abuse, came on strong late last year on special teams. Saturday, it appeared his foot got caught in the turf while making a jump-cut on a 33-yard return. There was no contact on the play.
Pead, 24, missed the preseason opener with a fractured finger.
“He was fighting back,” Fisher said.
The coach said that Pead will undergo surgery in the “next 10 days to two weeks, which is typical for these injuries.”
“So he’s got a long road ahead of him,” Fisher continued. “But I’m confident that as he’s matured over the last couple of years that he’ll get back in good shape next year. Anyway, we wish him the best through his rehab.”
Fisher also said that center-guard Barrett Jones, a standout lineman from Alabama and the team’s fourth-round draft choice in 2012, is “weeks away” after undergoing back surgery.
“Barrett has had some minor surgery on his back, so he will not participate in the preseason,” Fisher said Sunday. “Beyond that, I don’t know. It depends on his rehab.’’
Jones, one of the most decorated offensive linemen in college football history, had his rookie season limited by a foot injury suffered late in his career with the Crimson Tide. He arrived in camp stronger and leaner but then experienced lower-back issues that led to the surgery.
Fisher said the team received a favorable report on rookie center Demetrius Rhaney, who went down during a field goal drill Thursday and had to be carted off. Rhaney, from Tennessee State, was selected in the seventh round in May, one pick after Mizzou’s Michael Sam.
“We suspected the worst but got good news,’’ Fisher said. “He has no ligament damage whatsoever ... no cartilage damage. He’s got a severe bone bruise, I guess that’s how I’d classify it, and he’s going to be out for some time. These things typically take time, but I can’t tell you whether it’s going to be four or six weeks.”
Fisher said that rookie cornerback E.J. Gaines, the Mizzou product selected in the sixth round, sat out Saturday because he “had some stuff that carried over from the practice field last week, (but) he’ll be fine.”
Late last week in practice, Gaines appeared to tweak his ankle.
KEY PLAYERS EXPECTED TO RETURN
Quarterback Sam Bradford and veteran center Scott Wells played well in their first preseason action Saturday, and more of the team’s top players are expected back soon.
When asked about left tackle Jake Long, middle linebacker James Laurinaitis, defensive tackle Michael Brockers and right guard Rodger Saffold on Sunday, Fisher responded: “I think there’s a chance all four” could play.
A day after the game, Fisher was still excited about the performance of Bradford, who looked strong in his return from season-ending knee surgery in 2013. Bradford was in for two series — 22 plays — Saturday and completed nine of 12 passes for 101 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown strike to tight end Lance Kendricks.
“Sam played very, very well,” Fisher said Sunday. “He and Scott (Wells) were dead on as far as communication and protections.”
Bradford “just carried everything on from the practice field into the game,” Fisher continued. “That was a great throw and catch to Lance. It’s a hard throw and a very, very difficult catch. (And tight end Jared Cook) Cookie’s fourth-down catch was a good contested catch, too.”
Fisher said that Bradford “would play a little bit more” Saturday in Cleveland against the Browns and that the team’s approach this week would include some game-planning.
“As I mentioned to (the players), this week’s a different week,” the coach said. “We’re going to do a little more this week on both sides of the ball as we need to. We need to put the players under a little more stress from a game-plan standpoint and so the coaches will prepare to do that, and it looks like we have an exciting opponent this week.”
The Rams will hold their final open-to-the-public workouts Tuesday and Wednesday at Rams Park in Earth City. Both practices will begin at 3:30 p.m.
The team, off to an 0-2 start in the preseason, will travel to take on the Browns in Cleveland on Saturday at 7 p.m. before closing out the preseason with a 6 p.m game Aug. 28 against the Dolphins in Miami.
The Rams will open the 2014 regular season at noon Sept. 7 at the Edward Jones Dome against the Minnesota Vikings.
• Fourth-year pro Mike Person was on the field for all 71 of the Rams’ offensive snaps Saturday, seeing action at tackle, guard and center.