PHOENIX, Ariz. • Robert Turner proved to be a lifesaver last season for the Rams, starting seven games at left guard and nine at center in place of the injured Scott Wells.
The Rams hoped to re-sign Turner to provide veteran depth on the offensive line, and had a contract offer on the table for him in free agency. But those plans went asunder Tuesday when Turner agreed to terms on a contract with the Tennessee Titans.
It’s possible that Turner, 28, could contend for a starting guard spot with Tennessee. But the Titans are expected to strongly consider taking a guard in the draft next month. In fact, many mock drafts have them taking Alabama’s Chance Warmack with the No. 10 overall pick.
Turner joined the Rams through free agency a year ago from the New York Jets and provided a bonus to the offensive line because he knew the language and system of new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. Schottenheimer had held the same job title with the Jets.
Turner started only two games in four seasons with the Jets before coming signing with the Rams last March 31. After rookie Rokevious Watkins showed up to training camp overweight and out of shape, Turner won a close battle with Quinn Ojinnaka for the starting left guard job on opening day.
But when Wells suffered a broken foot in the opener in Detroit, Turner moved to center and stayed there as the starter until Wells returned in Game 11. Turner then switched back to left guard, starting the last six games of the season there.
Turner was an intelligent, tenacious performer for the Rams but struggled at times with the more athletic defensive tackles. On the Rams’ own list of free agents, he was among a handful of players the Rams wanted to bring back.
Besides starting right guard Harvey Dahl and starting center Wells, Turner’s departure leaves four interior blockers on the current roster:
• Shelley Smith started four games at left guard and two at right guard last season.
• Watkins played in the opener before suffering a season-ending ankle injury in that game.
• Tim Barnes was on the active roster for 15 games and is the only player on the current roster with center experience other than Wells.
• Guard Brandon Washington was on the practice squad all season.
TWO PROPOSALS PASS
Two playing rule proposals were approved Tuesday, both related to player safety. One proposal makes a “peel-back” block below the waist illegal in the tackle box. The penalty for such a block is 15 yards.
The other proposal adds restrictions to defensive team formations for punt, field goal and extra point attempts and makes the snapper a “defenseless” player.
With respect to the defensive formation, any defender who is within one yard of the line of scrimmage at the snap must have his entire body outside the snapper’s shoulder pads on punts, field goals and extra points. Also, no more than six defensive players on the line of scrimmage may be on either side of the snapper on field goals and extra points.
The penalty for either of those illegal defensive formations is 5 yards.
Also, it is now illegal for players not on the line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped to push players into the offensive formation. This brings a 15-yard penalty.
“We have a player safety problem upfront particularly because of the overloading and the pushing,” said Rams coach Jeff Fisher, a member of the competition committee. “They were creating situations where you were getting four and five (defenders) on two (blockers), or three guys on one.
“When the protection team’s legs typically are interlocked — their feet are — they have no way to protect themselves.”