Rams Get Mixed News on OL

Posted Sep 10, 2012

Left tackle Rodger Saffold was out of a Detroit hospital Sunday night and returned to St. Louis on Monday morning.


When it comes to a pair of injuries suffered by offensive linemen in Sunday’s game against Detroit, the Rams got good news and bad news on Monday morning.

First, the good news is that tackle Rodger Saffold’s neck injury doesn’t appear to be anything more than a strain. While it’s unknown how long that will keep him out, it’s a drastic leap from what appeared to be a serious injury when it occurred.

On receiver Brandon Gibson’s 23-yard touchdown catch, Saffold crumpled to the ground and did not get up until he was taken away on a backboard by an emergency cart.

Saffold stayed in a Detroit hospital for tests but was discharged Sunday night and spent the night in the Motor City before returning to St. Louis on Monday morning.

“He’s back here with us,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “His tests were negative, the CAT scan and X rays were all negative. He’s got some further tests to do but at this point, it’s just a significant strain so he was very lucky. That’s good news.”

On the flip side, the Rams got some not-so-good news on center Scott Wells’ foot injury.

Fisher revealed Monday afternoon that Wells has a fractured fifth metatarsal in his foot that will require surgery.

The Rams will place Wells on injured reserve in short order and then take advantage of a new league rule that allows one player to return to the active roster from that list after a six-week period. 

“It’s unfortunate for us but it is fortunate that we’ll be able to clear a roster spot for him,” Wells said. “I won’t go into details as far as the direction we are going to move on the roster.”

With Wells out, the Rams have only Robert Turner, the man who replaced him Sunday, available in terms of centers. It’s likely they’ll look to add someone else capable of playing that spot.

As for Wells, his injury appears to be somewhat run of the mill but comes as a disappointment after Wells had just returned to action from an offseason knee surgery a few weeks ago. He can return to practice in week 6 and back to action in week 8.

“That’s estimated time,” Fisher said. “But each one is different. This one is not as severe as some that the doctors have seen. It’s a clean break and it’s a simple procedure.”

Most likely, the Rams will be without Saffold and Wells this week, leaving them in search of options for filling those voids.
Against the Lions, Robert Turner, who started at left guard, moved to center when Wells was injured. Rookie Rokevious Watkins replaced him at left guard while Wayne Hunter stepped in at left tackle for Saffold.

Upon viewing the game tape, Fisher said both did fine in their opportunities but had some hiccups.

“Wayne was OK. Wayne has played the position, he’s experienced, he was OK,” Fisher said. “Rok had some things happen in front of him and when it comes to communicating with Scott and then Rob went back in and he had a lot going on in there. So we’ll get it settled down this week.”

The task of “settling” the offensive line starts in one place, according to Fisher. Continuity and communication are keys for an offensive line but the Rams haven’t had many chances to develop either considering the musical chairs they’ve had with that group in the opening weeks of the season.

“It starts with protections,” Fisher said. “We’ll run it but then it starts with protections. Everybody has to be on the same page. You don’t want free runners on the quarterback and so people stepping back and people stepping up and coming off the edge, everybody has to be on the same page.”

While Turner will almost certainly handle the center duties and Hunter will likely step in at tackle, the left guard situation might be more up for grabs. Fisher indicated that newly-acquired tackle Ty Nsekhe and guard Shelley Smith could be ready to go this week.

Smith, in particular, might get a long look this week. After missing all of the 2011 season with an injury, he said he’d relish the chance to get back in the game.

“I’m going to do whatever I have to do to help the team,” Smith said. “If that means I have got to speed along and be ready to go, I’ll do whatever I need to help the team whenever I’m needed.”

The Rams claimed Smith on waivers from Houston, winning out over three other teams for his services. With the Texans, Smith was in more of a zone scheme so part of his adjustment involves switching to a scheme that still has some zone principles but isn’t as heavy on it as Houston.

“They do some zone scheme here but it’s a bit different,” Smith said. “But in the end it’s football. I’m just learning the new system and moving forward.”

Regardless of which five ends up stepping into the mix against Washington this week, the onus will fall on them to protect quarterback Sam Bradford and do a better job of creating running room in the ground game.

Turner, who so far has been an extremely valuable pickup if for no other reason than his versatility, knows better than anyone what is required of he and his linemates.

“That’s what we have got to be able to do,” Turner said. “I’m not the only guy that does that. We have multiple guys…It’s not any one guy. Yes, that’s an extra ability I have but we have multiple guys on this team like that.”