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Injured players participate in Rams' minicamp

The Sports Xchange

--Rams coach Jeff Fisher went a little Bill Belichick on the media Tuesday when he was asked after practice if any players were held out totally because they were returning from surgery.

Fisher laughed and said, "You know, I'll have an injury report for you on September 5."

However, Fisher did reveal that defensive end William Hayes, recently signed as a free agent, had an offseason shoulder "procedure" and added, "He's not quite 100 percent, but he will be there very quickly." Hayes said he had issues with his labrum and rotator cuff but claimed not to be limited at all.

Fisher also said when asked about tackle Jason Smith, "He's good. He's been here, he's been working. He's been working very well inside and his condition level is excellent. We're excited about a new start for him."

The Rams list 61 players on the minicamp roster, and 13 (including free-agent wide receiver Steve Smith who was with the Eagles) ended the 2011 season on injured reserve. Wide receiver Austin Pettis, who ended the 2011 season on the suspended list for violating the league policy on performance enhancing drugs, practiced. Pettis still has two games to serve of that suspension at the beginning of the season.

Some of the injured players didn't do significant work in the two days of practices, but all were there: wide receivers Danny Amendola and Greg Salas, tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, tackles Jason Smith and Rodger Saffold, fullback Brit Miller, cornerbacks Bradley Fletcher, Jerome Murphy, Brian Jackson and Marquis Johnson, defensive tackle Jermelle Cudjo and linebacker Josh Hull.

--Quarterback Sam Bradford said he totally rested his injured ankle for two months after the 2011 season ended.

Said Bradford, "I went to a doctor literally two days after the season ended and he told me not to do anything really until March 1. That's when I got back here, so I kind of shut it down for six or more weeks after the season and then got back in the training room with (trainer) Reggie (Scott), and I would say it felt 10 times better then and it's only gotten stronger since I've been here working with Reg."

One of the things that excites Bradford the most is having a quarterbacks coach again this season. In his rookie year, Dick Curl was the quarterbacks coach, but he retired when Josh McDaniels was hired as the offensive coordinator. McDaniels doubled as the quarterbacks coach. Fisher has hired Frank Cignetti to fill that role this year.

"I like that," Bradford said. "I'm glad that we have a quarterbacks coach now. Obviously with Josh trying to do both last year, I think it was just a lot for him to handle. I think sometimes some of the little things such as drops, footwork, throwing mechanics kind of got put aside as opposed to putting reads and everything in front.

"I'm really happy that we hired a quarterback coach this year. I think it's going to be great for my development. I think coach Cignetti is a great guy, too, and can't wait to work with him."

While Bradford is learning his third offense in as many NFL seasons, he said there is some similarity to the offense Pat Shurmur coached in Bradford's rookie year.

"I like the offense that we're running this year," Bradford said. "It's more similar to two years ago than to last year. There is some carry-over, so I am somewhat familiar with it, trying to learn it again."

--Safety Darian Stewart was the only player not practicing because he was taking an exam at school, but it was hoped Stewart would be there Wednesday. Stewart is an unsigned exclusive-rights free agent (ERFA) that hasn't signed his tender yet.

Players tendered and unsigned are permitted to participate in offseason workouts but usually sign injury waivers. Amendola is an unsigned restricted free agent, while wide receiver Dominique Curry, guard Bryan Mattison and defensive tackle Jermelle Cudjo have yet to sign their ERFA tenders.

--Last year, the Rams didn't play their first division game until a brutal stretch of seven games had been played. This year's schedule, announced Tuesday by the NFL, is different.

After opening the season with two of their first three games on the road against NFC North teams Detroit and Chicago with Washington sandwiched in between, the Rams will then play two division rivals with both at home.

The Seattle Seahawks visit St. Louis Sept. 30 and four days later in their only prime-time game of the season, the opponent will be the Arizona Cardinals on NFL Network Thursday night.

The second half of the schedule will be particularly challenging. An Oct. 21 game against Green Bay at home is the last game in the Edward Jones Dome for a month because of the Oct. 28 game in London against the New England Patriots.

In fact, after that game against the Packers, the Rams will play in the Dome only three times in the final 10 games of the season. Their bye is after the London game, and starting with the Nov. 11 trip to San Francisco, five of the last eight, four of the last six and three of the last four games of the season are on the road.

However, only one of the final four games of the season is against a division team as the Rams finish the season as they did in 2010 in Seattle. The three games prior to that are at Buffalo on Dec. 9, home against Minnesota on Dec. 16 and at Tampa Bay on Dec. 23.

Aside from their road division games that are all late games and the Thursday night game against Arizona, the only other game that isn't played at noon Central time is the Sept. 16 home game against the Redskins. This is the fifth consecutive season the Rams will play the Redskins, and all have been within the first five games of the season: fifth game in 2008, second in 2009 and 2012, third in 2010 and fourth in 2011.

"That is now. That's the new thing on my target. Not so much individual things - of course, I set my sights out to accomplish a lot of great things - but nearing the age of 29, you do hear the echoes and the whispers. Very few people have had the success when being over 30, but I think about guys like Emmitt Smith that played a long time, Marcus Allen, even Thomas Jones recently. Before he got traded, he had a 1,400-yard season over the age of 30. So, it's doable. I've just got to make sure that I continue to take care of myself the way I have and continue to believe in myself. When people fall is when they start letting the outside inflict their mentality and their confidence." - Running back Steven Jackson on wanting to show he still has a lot left.

Copyright (C) 2012 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.


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