Versatile Turner Provides Insurance

Posted Aug 8, 2012


As he enters his sixth season in the NFL, Robert Turner has carved himself a very specific, defined niche.

That niche is as a jack-of-all-trades, Swiss Army Knife of an offensive lineman who simply does whatever is asked of him.

It is that willingness to do whatever he can to help the team combined with the versatility to capably fill in anywhere along the offensive line or even at fullback or tight end that made Turner a priority for the Rams when they went searching for line depth in free agency.

About a week and a half into his first training camp as a Ram, Turner has stepped into what is probably his most familiar and comfortable role at center. With presumptive starter Scott Wells out as his knee recovers from an offseason scope, Turner has stepped into the role with the first team offense.

It’s a job that Turner has embraced openly.

“It’s what I did in New York behind Nick Mangold there,” Turner said. “I was the backup swing guy there.”

While Turner eventually will cede the job back to Wells, who signed a lucrative free agent contract with the Rams in March, the arrangement has been positive for both sides early in this camp.

“He knows the offense, knows the terminology, good solid calls, very helpful with the quarterbacks,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “With Scott not being in there, it’s good to have somebody that has some familiarity in there. So he’s done a good job and he’s got the versatility that he can play guard as well. He’s having a good camp.”

While it’s not ideal in terms of building chemistry for the line, Turner brings a calming presence to the huddle and the added value of a player who is extremely familiar with the Rams new offensive scheme.

Turner spent his first five seasons in the league with the New York Jets, working directly with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer in his half-decade there.

Schottenheimer is, of course, the Rams new offensive coordinator and has brought the same system to St. Louis. It’s no coincidence that he signed off on bringing Turner to the Rams to help provide knowledge of the offense and solid depth behind the starters.

“He obviously has the biggest edge on everybody because he’s been in the system for a long time now,” Schottenheimer said. “But again you watch the guy; he goes in and takes control. He’s good for Scott to bounce ideas off of him and watching film and talking about things. Rob is just a guy that has got a lot of ability. Unfortunately for him he’s sat behind some great players but when you see him out here playing, he definitely belongs in this league and can start for a lot of teams in my opinion.”

On the flip side of that, Turner has been getting valuable reps with the first team and has benefited from the guidance and instruction of Wells, who hasn’t hesitated to chime in with tips from the sideline.

“It’s been great having Scott here because he’s watching practice and kind of giving me peer coaching like my hand was here or your foot didn’t get all the way where it needed to be or change this, so it’s good because I played in Schotty’s system for five years and Scott has been a starter for seven,” Turner said. “So we have really been able to help each other back and forth as far as me helping him learn the system because he’s not getting the live reps and him helping me technically as far as perfecting my craft. It’s really been a good deal between the two of us working back and forth.”

Turner visited the Rams back in March, not long after the free agent market opened for business. St. Louis parted ways with Tony Wragge, who was not re-signed as an unrestricted free agent and went in search of a swing lineman for the interior of the offensive line.

That visit made signing with the Rams a virtual no brainer. Considering his relationship with Schottenheimer and knowledge of the offense, the Rams were working from a strong advantage already. When he got the chance to actually visit, though, Turner couldn’t help but feel at home.

“When I came on my visit here it felt like a good fit,” Turner said. “I had been in New York for five years but it felt like home when I showed up here. Even though I was coming on a visit and doing a workout and things of that nature, it felt like home. So it was very inviting. Obviously it was a plus to have Coach Schottenheimer here. I’ve got some friends that played for Coach Fisher when they were in Tennessee and I asked them how he was and I heard nothing but positives. You put all of that stuff together and it comes out to be a very positive thing and a good decision I made.”

Although Turner started just two games of the 41 games he played in five seasons with New York, he got plenty of game experience all over the field. He lined up at all five positions on the line, did some work at fullback and tight end, was a regular contributor on special teams and even did some goal line defensive work.

Even with all of that moving around, Turner has no designs on begging for the ball around the goal line or looking to make plays. Simply, he just will do whatever is asked of him to help the team.

“We joke around and do that in practice but by no means am I lobbying to do that,” Turner said. “If the time presents itself and they need me to play another role, I am more than willing to do that as long as I can help the team win.”

Of course, working on the offensive line is Turner’s bread and butter. He played collegiately at New Mexico, where he spent most of his time at right guard and right tackle.

Wells has been slowly but surely working his way back into the mix and coach Jeff Fisher expects Wells to get in some preseason action before the exhibition slate is complete. When that happens, Turner will revert to the main role the Rams brought him in to fill, which is as the primary backup at center and both guard spots.

“I would say the inside three I’m most comfortable,” Turner said. “I am definitely an interior core guy but in a pinch or if they needed me to as long as I get the reps I can step out on the edge and be serviceable.”

Spending the first part of his training camp and the entirety of the Organized Team Activities and minicamps at center has effectively taken Turner out of the mix for a possible shot in the competition for the left guard spot.

The competitor in Turner wouldn’t have minded a chance to step in there but he’s been around long enough to happily fill in the role he’s given with nary a complaint.

“I don’t know that it’s necessarily on my mind because Scott is dinged up and they need me at center so that’s what I’m going to do,” Turner said. “I think that was part of the reason they wanted to bring me in because they knew I could fill multiple roles. Anybody would be lying if they said they didn’t want to win a starting job but obviously the coaches know me well enough to know that I am going to do what it takes to help the team win.”