He knew it was bad as soon as it happened.
Early in the second quarter of last year's third preseason contest against the Chargers, Rams tight end Temarrick Hemingway lined up between right tackle Rob Havenstein and tight end Tyler HIgbee for an inside handoff to running back Malcolm Brown. Though Brown's run went nine yards, it also would end up costing Hemingway his season.
With Hemingeway engaged in a block at the line of scrimmage with defensive end Melvin Ingram, defensive tackle Damion Square dove right into the back of the Ram's left leg.
Hemingway said he heard a crack. Then he had one thought.
"I was just hoping it wasn't a career-ending injury," Hemingway told therams.com this week.
As we know now, his hope was realized. Hemingway did suffer a broken fibula that prematurely ended his 2017 season. He has, however, been a full participant in Los Angeles OTAs.
"I still have things that I have to work on with the leg, of course. I still feel a couple of things," he admits.
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But going through a serious injury that forced him to simply watch the Rams' successful 2017 season unfold gave him a renewed appreciation for the game.
"It's like — you don't really think about how important football is to you until you're taken out of it, unfortunately, like I was," Hemingway said.
And it wasn't all negative. Hemingway noted he appreciates the perspective he gained from watching things both from the sideline and on television — even as he wished he could contribute to Los Angeles' eventual division title.
"I couldn't be anything but happy for the guys because they put in the work and I was just happy to be a part of it — being there with them, giving them my insight on things I see from the sideline, or on TV," Hemingway said. "So it wasn't necessarily a bad thing that I sat out, because I got to see things from a different perspective. So I'm just pretty fortunate that I got that chance to sit back and watch from another perspective."
Now that he's back, Hemingway is ready to compete and contribute at tight end for the offense. Head coach Sean McVay started with Hemingway's size — he's listed at 6-foot-5 and 251 pounds — as one of the reasons the South Carolina State product may make an impact for L.A. in 2018.
"When you just look at Temarrick, he's what they're supposed to look like — great size, great length," McVay said. "I think he can truly play that wide position, but he's also athletic enough to be able to move around in kind of that 'F' role that we identify on our offense.
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"But I think he's able to play in-line, he can reach 'Sam' linebackers, he can protect in some of the play actions and different things, but then he's also a viable receiving option," McVay continued. "So I think in an ideal world he is your wide tight end, but that's not exclusive to him being able to move around just based on the athleticism. And so far he's demonstrated that."
For his part, Hemingway said he feels he fits in well with the position group and the offense. And he'd like to help take the Rams' TEs to the next level in the upcoming season.
"I would take that as another opportunity to do that, because I bring both aspects to the game," Hemingway said. "I'm a blocking tight end, and I can receive as well. So just bringing that versatility to the game, giving the defense two things to defend."
And even though they're all technically going head-to-head for roster spots, Hemingeway said he feels he has a good rapport with the entire tight ends group.
"I love those guys. We're all competing here, but we're all helping each other get better as well because we're all going to contribute. So the better we are as a group, the better we'll be as an offense."
While the offseason program has gone well for Hemingway, the tight end said there's still plenty of progress to be made before the team disperses until training camp begins in late July.
"Mentally, I want to be 100 percent correct on everything. I don't want any mental mistakes," Hemingway said. "And I want to get my job done efficiently."