Pettis Poised for Return

Posted Sep 17, 2012

Fully immersed in all things football for more than a month as the Rams went through training camp and the preseason, wideout Austin Pettis had returned to the Rams with a vengeance after a rookie season that fell short of his expectations.

But Pettis came back to St. Louis focused and ready to make an impression on coach Jeff Fisher and the new coaching staff. He went on to have one of the best preseason performances of any Ram regardless of position.

And then, suddenly, Pettis found himself hitting the pause button. His momentum was halted by the remaining two weeks of a suspension for use of a banned substance. While his teammates pursued victories against Detroit and Washington, Pettis was left to fill the role of fan.

“It was kind of weird,” Pettis said. “It was kind of limbo, you just don’t know where you’re going to be at. You are in season mode and then I’m at home and you’re really not doing anything. So it was kind of difficult to balance it out.”

Pettis returned to the Rams on Monday morning and is expected to be activated back to the roster sometime in the next day or so. The team will have to make a corresponding move to create room on the 53-man roster.

Upon his return, Pettis will be coming back to a receiver situation that has seen Danny Amendola put together one of the finest receiving performances in franchise history and Brandon Gibson haul in a touchdown in each of the first two games.

Should Pettis be able to get back in the groove he had in the preseason, though, he’d be a welcome addition to an offense that took off for one of its finest performances in a long time against Washington on Sunday.

“I feel good right now,” Pettis said. “It was an unfortunate two weeks. You take the most out of it (as) positive (as possible). My body is still pretty healthy. I’ll be able to get some of the new guys that are a little banged up some reps off in practice as well so just more ways to help the team and hopefully come in and just pick up right where I left off.”

With two weeks of time away from his team, Pettis looked for any way possible to stay busy and keep on top of things so he wouldn’t miss much of a beat in his time away from the team.

Pettis stayed in St. Louis at his home in St. Charles and worked out at a local training facility. There, he spent plenty of time in the weight room and also had some coaches who worked him out on the field.

“I had a coach that took me on the field and we did a lot of agility drills and he would throw me passes,” Pettis said. “We got a lot of good work in route wise and conditioning wise. We kind of hit all phases.”

When the Rams went to Detroit last week and when they hosted the Redskins, Pettis posted up at his house with the television on, cheering on his team. 

That he was welcomed back by the team on Monday was a big lift to Pettis, who said he couldn’t stop smiling after getting to re-join his team.

Considering that Fisher and the coaching staff are new and Pettis was a holdover, he admits that he wondered going into the spring whether he’d even get a shot to win a roster spot considering the looming suspension.

“That was something mentally coming into camp and OTAs that I had in the back of my mind and knew it was going to be something that could possibly hinder my chances of making the team,” Pettis said. “I thought about that a lot but the coaches gave me a very clear chance in camp. They gave me a lot of good feedback, they gave me a very good shot to make the team and luckily I was able to go out there and make the plays that they wanted me to.”

Now, Pettis will get a chance to do even more and look to help the Rams receiver corps continue to grow.

SAFFOLD OUT: Further tests on left tackle Rodger Saffold’s injured left knee revealed a third degree Medial Collateral Ligament sprain.

The good news from that is that there was no damage to Saffold’s ACL and no surgery will be required.

The bad news? Saffold will still be forced to miss a chunk of the season.

“It’s not season ending but it’s significant,” Fisher said. “He’s going to miss a number of weeks…it’s going to be at least four weeks, maybe more.”

Saffold actually made an impressive return to the lineup only a week after what appeared to be a serious neck injury suffered against Detroit. Unfortunately, his return didn’t last long as he recovered a fumble and attempted to run with it.

As Saffold crashed to the ground in an awkward collision, he immediately knew something was wrong with his knee and he was helped off the field. Coincidentally, Washington star pass rusher Brian Orakpo suffered a season-ending pectoral injury on the same play.

Fisher said the Rams would hold the roster spot for Saffold while he recovers.

“But fortunately for him, it’s not season ending and he’ll be back,” Fisher said. “He’s got a pretty good attitude about it. He’s happy with the news when we got the results of the MRI.”

NO CONSPIRACY: For whatever reason, when Fisher explained that running back Steven Jackson suffered a groin strain after Sunday’s game and Jackson confirmed that to be the case, some skepticism remained about why Jackson didn’t play in the second half.

For the conspiracy theorists out there, Fisher emphasized again on Monday that there was nothing nefarious to Jackson not re-entering the game after spiking the ball for an apparent touchdown in the second quarter.

“There’s nothing more to it,” Fisher said. “He spiked the ball because he thought he scored. Unfortunately it was a set of circumstances that were highly unusual but there was nothing to it. His groin was tight. We didn’t want to risk further injury. He could have come back in the game.”

Jackson actually tweaked the groin on a 20-yard run earlier in that drive. He took himself out of the game and replacement Daryl Richardson stepped in for him for three plays before Jackson came back when the Rams had first down at Washington’s 4. He played three more plays before leaving the game permanently.

Had Richardson not stepped up and played as well as he did, Fisher said it’s possible that Jackson might have returned.

“He understands,” Fisher said. “He was OK with it. This is a long season. He’s an experienced back. He knows his body. He wasn’t going to be 100 percent in this ball game but he could have come back. When you are competing in a ball game like that, you just don’t want to set yourself back. He’s clearly not ruled out for this game. He goes back in that game at some point; he might have had an issue.”