THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Defensive back Derion Kendrick's response to being benched was telling, though not surprising – in a good way.
Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris in Week 9 had alluded to potential changes at outside cornerback in the secondary, and sure enough, out went Cobie Durant opposite Ahkello Witherspoon in Kendrick's usual starting spot when the unit took the field in Green Bay.
Kendrick, who had played at least 47 defensive snaps in seven of his first eight games, saw just three. But he gave everything he had.
"It's never easy to get a reduced role, to get your role changed in any matter," Morris said Thursday. "I think it's always a grown-man conversation that you got to have, and being able to have those conversations with them to let them know, 'We're gonna need you at some point again, and we need you to stay locked in, stay loaded.' I love the response he had in the Green Bay game – came in for three snaps, gave us great, live-energy plays, almost got the fumble recovery, he picked it up, got a great block, he's back to his role. And then for him respond that way, he's kind of been that way throughout."
With that effort in mind, it wasn't a surprise that when Kendrick re-entered the starting lineup last week with Durant inactive, he turned in a pivotal first career interception in the Rams' win over the Seahawks.
That outcome wasn't too much of a surprise because of the way Kendrick handled himself after receiving the difficult news and used it toward his preparation for Sunday's game.
"They just sat me back for a little bit, get my mind off of a lot of things, because I had a lot going on at the same time," Kendrick told theRams.com. "Fall back, support my teammates and then just keep working. I just kept my head down until it was time for me to come up. And then when it was my time, just go out and give them more like they want me to."
Part of the feedback Kendrick got from Morris was that they needed more from him in important situations like the one where he got the interception, and more in those situations in terms of the details. Kendrick said that throughout the week, that situation where he made the interception was something he worked on coming from the Cowboys game, when, lined up against wide receiver CeeDee Lamb near the sideline. On that play, he said he turned his head around and his eyes got caught in the light, which caused him to slow down and Lamb to make the catch.
"I was hard on myself the whole week," said Kendrick, who made a point to work on doing a better job of tracking the ball downfield as a result.
Defensive back Jordan Fuller indicated postgame that a moment like that could serve Kendrick well both on and off the field.
"It was a special moment," Fuller told theRams.com postgame after Week 11. "I'm just really, really happy for him. He stays super, super consistent. No matter what anybody has said about him or felt about him. He just says super super consistent, and I felt like that was a mental and emotional battle he won more than it was physical. So yeah, I was just really, really happy for him. That's something he could definitely build off of, (not) just throughout the season, but just life in general, you know what I'm saying? Keep pushing, no matter how it may feel in certain moments and stuff like that. Definitely real happy for him."
It remains to be seen whether Kendrick will remain in the starting lineup or return to being a backup this Sunday against the Cardinals. But if Morris' observations are any indication, he'll handle it with the right frame of mind, no matter what his role ends up being.
"Very excited for him and how he played and how he responded to a little bit of adversity from this year, how he's bounced back from adversity from the year prior, and really happy to see where he's got the ability to take us into the next stages of what we got to do next coming up," Morris said.