Rams Get Boost from Saffold's Return

Posted Nov 15, 2012

While the return of receiver Danny Amendola to the Rams lineup last week against San Francisco was easy to recognize as he made big play after big play, the Rams offense also got another key player back though his presence was a bit more subtle.

Back at left tackle was Rodger Saffold, the team’s incumbent starter and the guy who held down the position at the beginning of the season.

Rams coach Jeff Fisher said Saffold wasn’t at his best after returning nearly two months after suffering a knee injury against Washington but that the young tackle battled through it.

“He returned probably a little rusty against a good defensive front, but finished the game, didn’t have any issues,” Fisher said. “So, I think with a good week of practice this week, he’ll be back to where he was.”

Saffold began working his way back from the knee injury when the team was in London, participating in some side work but not really in any form of a practicing capacity.

Then, over the bye week, Saffold got in on a limited basis for the team’s two practices. He was again limited last week leading in to the game against the Niners.

With his status for Sunday’s game hanging in the balance, Saffold had a revelation at the Saturday night team meeting. Sitting in that room listening to Fisher address the team, Saffold decided he’d had enough. He was ready to return.

Rust or no rust, Saffold was just happy to be back to action.

“Yeah, I knew that was going to happen,” Saffold said. “I knew there was going to be a little bit of rust with being limited through practice and then having to go out and play a game. I think at the same time, we shook some rust off and I think it’s just going to get better and better.”

Make no mistake, a little rust might have been a slight hindrance for Saffold in the game as he squared off with Pro Bowl caliber players like Justin Smith and Aldon Smith, but he more than held his own and felt like he got better as the game wore on.

In fact, Saffold said he noticed certain parts of his game improving from the first quarter to the fourth quarter and into overtime.

“Basically as far as my sets were concerned, as far as pass blocking, I think I got better and better as the game went on,” Saffold said. “My comfortability with a lot of the run stuff, too. It was easier to do screens later on in the game, being able to break off of playing on my leg and being able to move around in space was a lot better. Being able to push up the field, those types of things were a lot better.”

Saffold’s efforts were part of an offensive line that pieces together one of its best performances of the season as the offense exploded for 458 yards of total offense against one of the league’s stingiest defenses.

More than holding his own on the left side, the Rams ran the ball effectively behind Saffold and kept quarterback Sam Bradford upright for most of the game.

While the likes of Wayne Hunter and Joe Barksdale did a solid job replacing Saffold in his absence, having big No. 76 back in the mix is critical for the offense to finish the season with a flourish.

“It means a lot,” Bradford said. “Obviously, the other guys who have come in and played – Wayne, Joe - they’ve done a great job, but getting Saffold back on the field, he’s a great player. Really, I think it just encouraged everyone when he got back on the field. To have him start last week meant a lot to everyone in the huddle.”

This week, Saffold has been full participation in both practices and continues to get stronger and stronger as he gets more work.

It was a tough assignment for Saffold to not only come back against the stout 49ers but then to play a full five quarters but he believes that it will only benefit him moving forward and he looks to re-establish himself in the offense.

“It was a very, very long game,” Saffold said. “I was happy with being able to run down field, being able to run out on screens and be able to do a variety of different things that I wasn’t able to do two weeks prior so I think we made a lot of progress. I’m ready to just go on, go uphill and make some things happen.”

TIE KNOWLEDGE: When the clock struck all zeros last week against the Niners, many players on both sides didn’t really know what to do. The idea of a tie never really crossed their minds so they weren’t sure if another overtime period was coming.

When they realized that it was over and a tie was in place, many were disappointed that they couldn’t continue until a result was reached.

Not that it matters much either way but Fisher said he isn’t surprised that many players don’t know the rules because those guidelines seem to be constantly changing.

“No, it doesn’t,” Fisher said. “The overtime rule changed a couple years ago and this is their first experience this year. So, it doesn’t come as a surprise. Their responsibility is to make the plays, whether they think there’s one period or it just goes on forever, it really doesn’t matter.”

INJURY REPORT: The Rams had only a few minor changes to the injury report on Thursday after going through a late afternoon workout.

Fisher let his team sleep in on Thursday morning after adjusting the pace of practice on Wednesday a bit. Coming off a full five quarters in San Francisco, Fisher said his team is back to normal.

Receiver Austin Pettis (toe) was downgraded from limited to not participating. End Eugene Sims (knee) and safety Darian Stewart (knee) were again limited. Linebacker Mario Haggan (thigh) was added to the list as limited, also.

Of note for the Jets, safety LaRon Landry (heel) was added after not participating in Thursday’s practice. Linebacker Bart Scott (toe) and defensive lineman Sione Pouha (low back/ankle) were limited.