Fletcher Finds Success in Return from Injury

Posted Dec 16, 2010

In a season in which the injury bug has seemingly bit the hardest in the Rams secondary, especially at cornerback, Bradley Fletcher has emerged as a mainstay.

Each week, it seems the Rams have had to deal with another corner leaving with an injury or missing the game from a previous ailment. Yet Fletcher answers the bell every week regardless of any bumps and bruises he���s accumulated.

Perhaps Fletcher���s presence can be attributed to pure luck but the fact that it���s Fletcher who has been the lynchpin in the secondary represents some sort of poetic justice since it was little more than a year ago that a knee injury put him out for the season and potentially a career.

���I think it���s a tremendous credit to him, the trainers, all those guys that helped him in the offseason the way he worked at it,��� coach Steve Spagnuolo said. ���There was a time there this time last year where we didn���t even know if we���d have him back for training camp. But he worked his way back. He works all the time. That���s the kind of guy he is. He���s worked himself to a point where he���s been a quality player for us.���

By Oct. 25 of last season, Fletcher had begin to entrench himself as a starter on the Rams defense, making his third career start in his rookie season against Peyton Manning and the Colts.

A day that came with such promise ended abruptly when Fletcher crumpled to the ground after covering a long Manning pass down the sideline. The result was a pair of torn knee ligaments that would require multiple surgeries and prematurely end a promising rookie year.

���It was tough,��� Fletcher said. ���I was contributing to the team and having fun playing football. Once that happened I had to sit back and watch. It was a tough time.���

The initial diagnosis had Fletcher���s recovery at a year and there was some speculation that he might not play again.

So the quiet and humble Fletcher set about the business of getting to work. He was relentless in his rehabilitation and spent countless hours working with head athletic trainer Reggie Scott and his staff to try to get back.

���After the surgeries I was able to get back and do work with Reggie and things worked out for me,��� Fletcher said. ���I knew I still wanted to play. I wasn���t done playing and I���m happy I was able to get back.���

A year recovery would have put Fletcher back midseason and likely had him starting the season on the physically unable to perform list. But Fletcher was well ahead of the curve, returning to practice by the beginning of training camp, if even on a limited basis.

By the second preseason game against Cleveland on Aug. 21, Fletcher was back in the game, nearly two months ahead of schedule.

Fletcher���s return has been more than just superficial. Through 13 games, he leads the team in interceptions with four, is second on the team with 77 tackles and second in passes defended with 11.

���He's done (well) for us,��� defensive coordinator Ken Flajole said. ���I think 'Fletch' will be the first one to tell you it's really his freshman year from a mental standpoint. All the reps and game experience that he lost after the (Colts) game is hard, but you (have to let him) get back on the horse again.���

Even now, Fletcher isn���t quite back to full speed, making his performance this season all the more impressive.

���He���ll never admit it because he���s a competitor, he may be 95 percent,��� Spagnuolo said. ���Usually it takes a full year before you can get back on that, so he���s done admirable for what he went through.���

In many ways, this season is Fletcher���s rookie season meaning it���s more than probable that he���s only scratching the surface of his potential in a defense that is suited to his size and skills.
���I have learned a lot over this time and I���m just learning more every day,��� Fletcher said. ���Right now we are in a position where we are trying to win ball games and get better.���

Spagnuolo sees plenty of that potential in his young corner.

���He���s one of those guys that goes one hundred miles an hour every single snap, all the time,��� Spagnuolo said. ���It doesn���t matter whether it���s practice or in the weight room or whatever, and I think in the long run it���s going to pay off.���

CASSEL UPDATE: Day two of Matt Cassel watch in Kansas City took place on Thursday and there was no change to his status.

Like Wednesday, Cassel was again limited in practice and remains day to day.

Cassel had an emergency appendectomy last week and is now about eight days removed from it.

Chiefs coach Todd Haley told Kansas City reporters that Cassel is still day to day. Cassel told those same reporters that he felt good and everything went well.

If Cassel can���t play, the Chiefs will start Brodie Croyle for the second consecutive week.

THE BEARD IS BACK: Rams quarterback Sam Bradford earned back to back NFC Rookie of the Month honors for his performances in October and November.

In November, Bradford was particularly good, posting 792 yards with six touchdowns and just one interception for a rating of 96.8.

December hasn���t been as kind to Bradford in the first two games of the month so the superstitious signal caller is going back to what worked.

No, it���s nothing to do with fundamentals or favorites from the playbook. This is a matter of facial hair.

Bradford participated in ���No Shave November��� with many of his teammates, growing a long and scruffy beard. So he decided to bring it back.

���I think I played pretty well in November and struggled when I shaved so I thought it could come back here,��� Bradford said.

Bradford has been known to have a superstition or two. He reads the story of David vs. Goliath before every game and in a win against Denver a few weeks ago; he refused to watch the game on the field, opting instead to watch it on the video board because the Rams defense ���played better��� when he watched on the big screen.

When asked if he was superstitious, Bradford couldn���t help but poke fun at himself.

���Oh no,��� Bradford said, laughing. ���Not at all.���

INJURY REPORT: The Rams had a few tweaks to the injury report Thursday afternoon as punter Donnie Jones returned after missing Wednesday���s workout with an illness and linebacker David Nixon also got some limited work in as he comes back from surgery on his broken hand.

Jones was listed as full participation while guard Jacob Bell was upgraded to that status as well.

That leaves cornerback Ron Bartell (shoulder) and running back Kenneth Darby (ribs) joining Nixon on the list of limited participants.

Only tight end Michael Hoomanawanui was listed as not participating.

RAM BITS: Sunday���s game against the Chiefs will be televised locally as the Rams met sellout requirements for the game, they announced Thursday. A limited number of tickets remain for the game, which will be on KMOV-Channel 4 in St. Louis at noon on Sunday���Rams captains this week are safety James Butler and fullback Britt Miller.