Giordano gives Rams experience at safety

2013-07-22T08:30:00Z 2013-07-22T15:14:09Z Giordano gives Rams experience at safetyBy Jim Thomas jthomas@post-dispatch.com > 314-340-8197 stltoday.com

When safety Matt Giordano paid a free-agent visit to Rams Park in June, he got to meet his new teammates, but it was basically a “hi and bye” kind of deal.

“The last week of OTAs everyone has their mind set on getting out of Dodge,” Giordano told the Post-Dispatch. “It was one of those: ‘Hi, nice to meet you. I’ll see you in August’ type things.”

Well, late July actually.

Giordano signed his one-year deal, which pays him a base salary of $840,000, on the last day of the spring practice period. So other than a few former teammates — defensive end Mason Brodine and offensive tackle Joe Barksdale from Oakland, and linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar from New Orleans — Giordano will have trouble identifying many of his new Rams teammates.

Obviously, that’s about to change. The veterans report for training camp this week, with the first full-squad practice Thursday at Rams Park. Although Giordano’s signing attracted little more than passing notice in June, the Rams like his experience, his fresh legs and his ball skills.

Rookie T.J. McDonald and fourth-year man Darian Stewart are the expected starters at safety, but don’t dismiss Giordano. At age 30, entering his ninth NFL season, Giordano is by far the most experienced player at the Rams’ most unsettled position.

Of the six other safeties on the training camp roster, three are rookies and two are second-year players (Rodney McLeod and Matt Daniels). Neither McLeod nor Daniels had a tackle from scrimmage as rookies last season, and Daniels is coming off knee surgery. That leaves Stewart (40 games, 13 starts, 105 career tackles) and Giordano as the Rams’ only safeties with any measurable experience.

“Hopefully I can provide leadership,” Giordano said. “I plan on being a guy who can show these young guys how too practice, how to play the game the way it’s supposed to be played.”

He then added with a laugh, “I’m excited to work with McDonald even though he’s from ‘SC’ (Southern Cal) and I’m from Cal. We’ll work that out. Hopefully, I’m viewed as a guy who plays the game the right way, and can show these guys how to play and prepare to play this game the right way.”

During the 2011 and 2012 seasons with Oakland, Giordano had 22 starts, recorded a total of 121 tackles and intercepted seven passes. But he’s a relative late bloomer in terms of being an NFL starter, having started only six games in his prior six NFL seasons.

A fourth-round draft pick by Indianapolis in 2005, Giordano spent his first four seasons with the Colts, then played for Green Bay in 2009 and New Orleans in 2010 before joining the Raiders.

As this offseason ground on, Giordano had no idea the Rams were interested.

“It was out of the blue really,” he said. “I was still a free agent, and I honestly thought I was gonna get a call somewhere in mid-August or some time around then from a team. But luckily it happened, and I got the call (from St. Louis), and it worked out.”

At his pro day in 2005 for California-Berkeley, Giordano was timed at 4.52 and 4.58 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Those are good times for the safety position, but nothing startling. Then came Super Bowl XVL to cap the 2006 season.

Devin Hester of the Bears ran back the opening kickoff for a 92-yard touchdown, but Giordano almost ran him down from behind, tackling Hester as he crossed the goal line. The play opened some eyes and sparked discussion on just how fast Giordano was. There’s “timed” speed and “playing” speed, and the Rams feel Giordano can still move.

“I feel confident running, yeah,” Giordano said. “That’s one thing I’ve been blessed with, just the ability to run. I’m looking forward to showing what I’ve got.”

At 5-11, 204, Giordano doesn’t have ideal size for the position. But he has played both free and strong safety and feels comfortable at either spot. He also expects to see plenty of action for Rams special teams coordinator John Fassel, who held the same title in Oakland in 2011.

“Coach Fassel and I got along well in Oakland, and I hope to be a key contributor on special teams as well,” Giordano said.

Follow Jim Thomas on twitter @jthom1

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