Smith Comfortable if Called Upon

Posted Dec 19, 2012

Asked if he would use the final two games of this season to take a look at some of the few young players on the roster who aren’t already playing a prominent role this year, Rams coach Jeff Fisher dismissed the idea and said the focus is on doing everything possible to improve and win those contests.

But in one case, at least, Fisher and the Rams will have to turn to a younger player who hasn’t been involved as much in recent weeks.

Because of the season-ending biceps injury to right guard Harvey Dahl, a spot on the offensive line has opened up and a two-game audition could await Shelley Smith and or Chris Williams.

Smith got the first opportunity for the final dozen or so plays of Sunday’s game against Minnesota.

”Shelley was solid,” Fisher said. “He was solid in there. You know, it’s different moving over to the right side, but he’s done both and so, we feel like both he and Chris will be able to finish that up for us.”

While it remains to be seen whether Smith or Williams will get the call – both could get opportunities according to Fisher – Smith has already showed an ability to step in and do a solid job in a backup role this season.

Earlier in the year, Smith stepped in as the starter at left guard when center Scott Wells was recovering from a foot injury and Robert Turner was starting in the middle.

Smith started four games in that time, all on the left side and said that experience should help him moving forward if he gets the call to close out the season as Dahl’s replacement.

“It helps out a lot just getting game reps with those other guys out there, continuity of the O-line,” Smith said. “I feel like it definitely helps as far as continuity and kind of knowing what the other guys are going to do and kind of being used to game speed. It all kind of helps.”

Stepping in for Dahl against the Vikings was not Smith’s idea of fun in the sense that it came at the expense of an injured teammate and friend but he did appreciate the chance to get back on the field after a bit of a hiatus.

Harkening back to his chance to start earlier in the season, Smith said he enjoyed the opportunity to play considering how far he’d come.

As a former sixth-round pick of Houston out of Colorado State, Smith missed all of the 2011 season with a right leg injury suffered in training camp. That was on the heels of a rookie year in which he spent time on Houston’s practice squad and was inactive for each of the eight games he was on the active roster.

The chance to play and start had been a long time coming.

“It was really exciting for me to be able to go out there,” Smith said. “Obviously, it’s what I dreamed of and it was my first opportunity to get out there in the regular season so it was really exciting.”

The Rams claimed Smith on waivers after the Texans let him go during the final round of cuts in the preseason.

Upon arriving in St. Louis, Smith didn’t have much familiarity with the playbook and it took him a little time to catch up even as the need for help at left guard became more apparent.

Now, Smith is fully up to speed on the playbook and his focus this week is on making the transition back to the right side after playing exclusively on the left in his only game action this year.

Smith said he’s played on the right side plenty in his first two years in the league and even during practice so the transition wouldn’t be asking too much if he gets the chance this week.

“I’d say I’ve played a lot of both, pretty evenly,” Smith said. “I was kind of the swing guy with the Texans the last couple of years so I am used to playing both.”

As the 2012 season comes to a close and with so many players looking to solidify positions, the chance to play comes at an important time as Smith could make more of a case to have a shot at a job on the interior next season.

For his part, Smith isn’t concerned much with trying to make some kind of statement other than finding a way to help the Rams finish with two more wins than they have now. 

“For me, I am just trying to help the team win the last two games and try to do my best out there,” Smith said. “That’s really all I’m trying to do right now.”

IN A HURRY: The Rams offense and quarterback Sam Bradford have some strange splits this season when it comes to the timing of putting points on the board.

For example, the Rams have scored 63 points in the second quarter of games but out of those 63, 40 have come in the final two minutes of the quarter.

The common thread amongst those drives? A hurry up offense that allows the Rams to play at a faster pace and Bradford to run an offense more similar to what he did in college at Oklahoma.

Fisher was asked Wednesday if he’d given much thought to using the hurry up on a more regular basis.

“Then you’ll ask us how come we are not running the football,” Fisher said, a wry smile creeping across this face.

Fisher then proceeded to give a little more of a non-answer.
“Yeah, I have thought about that,” Fisher said.

So you’re not that type of coach, he was then asked.

“I didn’t say that,” Fisher said. “There’s a chance.”

Tackle Rodger Saffold said the offense does like the hurry up but also noted that it’s more difficult for linemen to take on that job for a long period of time.

“It looks great but you know the O line, we are really tired,” Saffold said. “But actually we have some of that in there. It can kind of catch the defense off guard and they can’t make certain reads, they can’t get in their formations and that’s why we are able to capitalize on a bunch of different things. All in all I think we still need to execute in our huddle offense and the no huddle offense has been doing well. I wouldn’t necessarily want to be in no-huddle offense the whole entire game.”

INJURY REPORT: As the weather has finally dropped temperatures down to more of a frigid state, a virus has made its way through the Rams locker room, leaving them without three players for Wednesday’s practice.

Running back Steven Jackson, cornerback Bradley Fletcher and end Robert Quinn missed Wednesday’s practice with an illness.

That trio was joined on the injury report by cornerback Cortland Finnegan (thigh), linebacker James Laurinaitis (back) and center Scott Wells (knee). Those three also did not participate in Wednesday’s practice.