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Rams' gamble on Britt pays dividends

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St. Louis Rams v Denver Broncos

St. Louis Rams wide receiver Kenny Britt catches a 63-yard touchdown pass while being defended by Denver Broncos cornerback Bradley Roby in first quarter action during a game between the St. Louis Rams and the Denver Broncos on Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014, at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. Photo by Chris Lee, clee@post-dispatch.com

Kenny Britt hasn’t set the world on fire, but he is providing a spark for the Rams’ wide receiver corps.

With 25 catches for 440 yards, Britt is on pace for 40 catches and 700 yards this season. Last week he became the first Rams receiver to top 100 yards in a game with four catches for 128. And his 63-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Shaun Hill on a post-pattern Sunday against Denver marked the Rams’ longest reception of the season.

OK, none of those numbers are going to make Megatron, aka Calvin Johnson, jealous. (Although Britt’s per-catch average of 17.6 yards might catch his eye.) But considering where Britt’s career was at, and where he started in St. Louis, it qualifies as a career revival.

“You can see the potential,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “Numbers aren’t (great) — he doesn’t necessarily have 75 catches right now. But you see he has the potential to make those big plays in a game. I’m sure he’ll finish up strong.”

After a frustrating 2013 season in Tennessee, where he was basically benched over the second half of the season, Britt signed a one-year “prove-it” deal with the Rams last offseason. It was for a modest $1.4 million, but included incentives that could double the value of the contract.

Because of his falling out with the Titans — just 11 catches for 96 yards in ’13 — and his history of off-field issues, there were no promises made in St. Louis.

“Not at all,” Britt said. “My mindset was coming in like a rookie, learning the system, being a great teammate, and working from the bottom up. They didn’t give me any special treatment, like, ‘Hey, you’re gonna start. You’re gonna be with the 1s and 2s.’

“When I came here, I was the last receiver on the bench. I had to get to know the playbook. I had to get to know the quarterbacks.”

And that’s how things went during the OTAs in June and the first week or so of training camp. But when the team released its first depth chart of the season in early August, Britt was listed as a starter. The Rams had decided to go big at wide receiver with Britt (6-3, 223) and Brian Quick (6-3, 218) as the starters lining up outside.

But the Rams lost that element to a degree when Quick was lost for the season with a shoulder injury in the Oct. 26 Kansas City game. Britt has scored two of his three touchdowns since then, and judging by what happened against Denver, he and Hill have a good chemistry.

“He’s a veteran guy; a guy that I’d play with any day,” Britt said of Hill.

Britt feels the same way about the rest of the Rams. In fact, after the team’s 13-10 road upset of San Francisco on Nov. 9, unsolicited, Britt talked about how much he enjoys playing with the team and how much he’d like to return in 2015 and beyond.

He has since reiterated why he wants to come back.

“One is Jeff Fisher,” Britt said. “I had a great experience with him when he was with the Titans, and he’s doing a great job as we see with the St. Louis Rams.”

The other main reason for wanting to return, Britt said, is the team chemistry in the meeting room, the locker room, and on the field.

“I’ve been in the NFL for going on six years, and this is the first time I’ve been in a locker room like this, where everybody’s all committed — all the guys,” he said. “I’m telling you, I’ve never been in a locker room like this — ever — in my career.”

Britt says players on both sides of the ball come to work every day trying to get better, and push each other to do so. He said there is no selfishness of “somebody waiting for somebody to mess up to get ahead.”

As of now, there are have been no known communications between the Rams and Britt’s agent. It could be that the Rams want to see how their younger wide receivers develop over the rest of the season, and also see how Britt himself performs in the season’s final six games.

Of course, with Quick expected to be sidelined until the start of training camp following his shoulder surgery and with Austin Pettis no longer on the team, it might make sense to get Britt under contract again if the price is right.

Even if there were negotiations going on at this time, Britt isn’t sure he’d want to hear about them at this point.

“Right now, I just want to focus on this year,” he said. “This is my sixth year and I’ve never been in the playoffs.”

The postseason is still mathematically possible for the Rams in 2014, but they’d probably have to run the table to get there. Even so, Britt sees possibilities for the future.

“Hopefully I can stay here after this season and be in this locker room,” he said. “It’s hard to put a team together like this in the locker room, with this chemistry.

“These guys like to work and like coming to work. The coaching staff as well. You don’t have coaches that I’d say were uptight — that you don’t want to be around. Everybody can be their self and everybody can go on the field and be their self.”

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