Tight end Lance Kendricks and defensive tackle Jermelle Cudjo, key cogs on the Rams’ depth chart, cleared a big hurdle Tuesday in their return from offseason injuries.
Both players were removed from the active/PUP list (physically unable to perform) on Tuesday, meaning they are free to return to practice.
“When you’re on active/PUP you’re really not permitted to do anything with the team (on the field),” coach Jeff Fisher said following Tuesday evening’s practice. “We felt like both of them are getting close, so take them off PUP and that way they can at least participate in walk-throughs and get the benefit of walk-through reps.”
Neither is quite ready for a full-fledged practice, but that’s coming soon. Fisher expects both to be ready for the regular-season opener Sept. 8 against Arizona.
“Oh yeah, there’s no doubt,” Fisher said. “There’s a chance both of them will play in the preseason.”
The Kendricks and Cudjo injuries were under the radar because they came during the offseason and didn’t occur in a practice setting.
Kendricks was working out in the Rams’ indoor facility just before the start of organized team activities in May when he twisted his right knee and heard a pop.
“It was a meniscus (injury),” Kendricks said.
At first, it was anticipated that Kendricks simply would undergo a minor arthroscopic procedure to repair the cartilage.
“It was a little worse than they thought,” Kendricks said. “So they ended up repairing my entire meniscus, which is good, but it takes longer to heal. So it healed and now I’m ready to go.”
Kendricks was perhaps the team’s most improved player a year ago, when he caught 42 passes for 519 yards and four touchdowns. The yardage total was the highest for a Rams tight end since the move to St. Louis in 1995.
His return will give the Rams and quarterback Sam Bradford yet another target in the passing game.
“That’s huge,” Bradford said. “That’s really big for us. I think it’s gonna be really exciting to see Kendricks and (Jared) Cook on the field at the same time. When we go ‘12’ (two tight ends) with those two guys out there, there is a lot of speed on the field.
“Obviously everyone knows Lance’s ability to catch but also to be a very good blocker in the pass game and in the run game. It’s gonna be interesting to see just all the things we can do with those two on the field together.”
Even with the arrival of Cook, Kendricks thinks his role will be very similar to last season.
“Playing a little bit in the backfield, point of attack as far as runs,” Kendricks said. “I’ll get my share of routes too, just like everybody else.”
But will there be enough footballs to go around for Cook, Kendricks, Chris Givens, Tavon Austin, Austin Pettis, Brian Quick, and Stedman Bailey — not to mention the running backs?
“I hope so,” Kendricks said, smiling. “We’ve got a lot of talent, a lot of good guys out there. It’ll be an exciting offense as well as an exciting team. I can’t wait for this year.”
Kendricks said he and Cook have a good relationship, and have been exchanging information and helping each other.
“I’ve been trying to show him what I’ve learned as well as me trying to take pointers from him.,” Kendricks said.
Up until now, Kendricks has been limited to the meeting room and taking mental reps on the field during practice. Now, he will participate in the morning walk-throughs and quickly work his way back into the practice routine.
The same goes for Cudjo, who experienced pain and soreness in his foot during the spring practice period.
“I finally got an MRI after OTAs, because I was still feeling a little pain,” Cudjo said.
Turned out he had a stress fracture. No surgery was needed, but the foot was placed in a cast for about six weeks. Cudjo got out of the cast a week ago, and after a CT scan showed the stress fracture had healed, he was removed from the PUP list.
A quiet success story, Cudjo joined the team as an undrafted rookie in 2010 and saw his most extensive playing time last season as the team’s third defensive tackle. In 15 games, including four starts, Cudjo finished with 39 tackles and a sack. He signed a modest two-year deal to stay with the Rams in March, then came the injury a few months later.
“I was blessed to get the two-year deal,” Cudjo said. “I was excited to play. Then I get this injury. It was a little setback. But I stayed positive and hopefully it will all pay off.”
Cudjo has yet to do any running since the boot was removed but is confident he will be ready for game action soon.
“I’m trying to shoot for Denver (Aug. 24), get the last two preseason games in,” Cudjo said. “If not, hopefully get the Ravens’ preseason game (Aug. 29) just to get some of the rust off.
“It’s been a long process. Don’t want to rush it, don’t want to have any setbacks, so just doing what the trainers ask me to do and go from there.”