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Rams Add Depth in Secondary

Posted Oct 27, 2010

The question first drew a laugh from new Rams safety Michael Lewis but he quickly turned serious when discussing landing in St. Louis after spending the past two-plus years with San Francisco.

So, how excited is he to no longer have to try to tackle Rams running back Steven Jackson in the open field, or at all for that matter?

“When you are facing a guy like who runs hard, runs downhill fast that’s a tough tackle,” Lewis said. “I am just happy that he’s on my team, (well) I’m on his team now.”

With a secondary that currently boasts only safeties Oshiomogho Atogwe and Craig Dahl as anything resembling completely healthy, the Rams went to work the past two days to provide some depth and solidify the defensive backfield as much as possible.

Enter the former Pro Bowler Lewis, last with the 49ers but also with a background of time with coach Steve Spagnuolo in Philadelphia. Joining him is former Ram brought back to the fold in cornerback Quincy Butler.

In Butler, the Rams get a known commodity of a player who has a good grasp on the system and isn’t far removed from it.

Butler spent part of the 2008 season and all of last year with the Rams before he was released in the final round of cuts this year Sept. 4. He started seven games last season, finishing with 24 tackles and six passes defended.

The arrival of Butler should help bolster a group that is considerably banged up. Cornerbacks Ron Bartell (shoulder, thigh), Justin King (hamstring), Kevin Dockery (ribs), Jerome Murphy (hamstring) and Bradley Fletcher (hamstring) are all dealing with ailments of varying severity.

Bartell was limited in Wednesday’s practice and King did not participate. Those injuries made it imperative for the Rams to find someone capable of stepping in and helping right away.

“Quincy did a nice job today,” Spagnuolo said. “He’s got fresh legs obviously and he does know the system. So hopefully he can jump in there pretty quick.”

It remains to be seen how quick Lewis will be able to get involved though he may not have much of a choice considering the Rams’ injury situation at safety.

Atogwe and Dahl figure to start but James Butler’s knee injury is almost certain to keep him out this week and Stewart’s hamstring kept him out of practice again Wednesday.

Although it’s only Wednesday, if there was a game today, Lewis would be the third option.

It helps Lewis that he’s played in Spagnuolo’s system before but he’s a few years removed from it now, making the task of getting up to speed a bit more difficult.

“We’ll see,” Spagnuolo said. “It’s funny. You sit here and say ‘OK, he was in the same system.’ But not really. He’s three years removed from it, things change. But these guys are all pros; they go to new teams and pick it up pretty quick.”

Lewis certainly comes with a solid resume, boasting a Pro Bowl berth following the 2004 season for his efforts for the Eagles. There, his defensive backs coach was Spagnuolo, who got to know the physical safety well.

Lewis entered the league in 2002 and at 6’1, 222 pounds, is known for his ability to come up in the box and help stop the run. For his career, Lewis has 661 tackles, 11 sacks, 13 forced fumbles and 12 interceptions.

San Francisco released Lewis on Oct. 4 and he said he had been waiting for the right opportunity to make his comeback.

For his part, Lewis said there were a couple of factors that ultimately led to his decision.

“Knowing Spags and this team is on the rise,” Lewis said. “They have a great group of guys here. For me, I just want to fit in and help in whatever way I can help.”

BRADFORD PAYS UP: Last week, Rams quarterback Sam Bradford and receiver Danario Alexander placed a friendly wager on Saturday’s Missouri-Oklahoma game. If the Tigers won, Bradford would have to wear Mizzou gear during his weekly meeting with the media.

If the Sooners prevailed, Alexander would have to wear the crimson and cream of Oklahoma. Of course, Mizzou went on to a 36-27 win in Columbia and Alexander quickly made the arrangements for Bradford to own up to his end of the bet.

Alexander was almost giddy waiting for Bradford to come into the locker room to put on the Mizzou garb.

“It’s something real special,” Alexander said. “I think the whole Mizzou nation will like it.”

What Bradford found was a No. 14 authentically stitched Mizzou jersey with his name sewn on the back.

Because Oklahoma had such a spell over Mizzou, Bradford had big plans for Alexander but he had to tip his cap to Alexander’s creativity in going all out for the jersey.

“He would have been decked out,” Bradford said. “I was going to bring a hat, a shirt; he was going to be all OU-geared out. I didn’t have a jersey for him, though. This is pretty clever by him.”

While Bradford was a good sport about it and maintained his composure as he was razzed by teammates and media, he also readily admitted that it wasn’t one of his finest moments.

“I don’t know,” Bradford said when asked if it was one of the worst moments of his life. “This is definitely down there.”

RYAN TO I.R.: To make room on the roster for Lewis, the Rams placed defensive tackle Clifton Ryan on injured reserve, ending his season.

Ryan has been dealing with migraine headaches for the majority of the season and just when it seemed he was finally getting in the clear, they came back.

Because of the severity and length of the issue, the Rams and Spagnuolo felt it best to give him a chance to try to get past the issues.

“It’s just a matter of letting that thing clear,” Spagnuolo said. “Obviously it was extended. It’s the right thing for the player. It’s about their health first.”

INJURY REPORT: In addition to King, Stewart and James Butler, the Rams had a few others who did not participate in Wednesday’s practice.

Running back Steven Jackson (finger), defensive tackle Fred Robbins (toe), tight end Fendi Onobun (back) and defensive tackle Darell Scott (ankle) also did not participate.

It was no surprise that Jackson was unable to go but Spagnuolo said the Rams remain optimistic he’ll be ready for Sunday.

“We want to let that thing calm down a little bit,” Spagnuolo said. “You’re talking about two days from surgery and two pins, but we’re hopeful.”

Bartell (shoulder, thigh), middle linebacker James Laurinaitis (knee) and linebacker David Vobora (hamstring) were limited.

Receiver Mardy Gilyard (hamstring) was listed as full participation.