THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. –– The wait spanned a little over a month, and after patiently biding his time through the first four weeks of the season, rookie linebacker Terrell Lewis finally made his Rams debut at Washington in Week 5.
"It was exciting just to be back out there, obviously, with a new team and just getting a feel for playing and be on the field with those guys in a game-like situation," Lewis said during a video conference with reporters earlier this week. "Then just being in FedEx (Field), and that being a place that I grew up watching all my life, just the bus ride there felt crazy. All of that, it almost felt like it was like God's fate."
Lewis played 14 of the team's 54 defensive snaps, tied with Ogbo Okoronkwo for second-most among Rams outside linebackers who saw action against the Washington Football Team.
According to Lewis, that amount of playing time was an intentional decision by the coaching staff to not overwhelm him in his first game back from the Reserve/Non-Football Injury List.
"Just trying to get my feet wet," Lewis said. "They didn't want to put too must pressure on me. I feel like the coaches handled that well."
Though he didn't record any statistics beyond a snap count, Lewis flashed some of his potential in limited action. On one particular play, he used his left arm to push Washington left tackle Geron Christian Sr. toward quarterback Alex Smith to create pressure. Lewis would have recorded the sack had Smith not narrowly escaped the collapsing pocket at the last minute.
"I had basically long-armed the left tackle, and then from there, the rain took a hold of me. Really couldn't see," Lewis said. "I knew I had him in arm's reach, and then he got away and slid out of the pocket after he bumped into one of his linemen and got away."
It was perhaps the surest sign that Lewis was back at full strength, if not close to it, after dealing with his knee situation.
Lewis echoed Rams head coach Sean McVay's previous comments to reporters that his placement on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury List stemmed from infection concerns from a previous procedure. While no infection was discovered and nothing was bothering him, Lewis said that decision was made for precautionary reasons – mainly to avoid it potentially turning into a major issue later on, an approach by the team he appreciated.
Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley also expressed appreciation for the work done by the team's medical staff to get Lewis back to full strength and was excited to see him make his debut.
"Terrell was able to show his stuff," Staley said during a video conference with reporters Wednesday. "I thought that he played good football for us. He looked confident and comfortable within that role. We've just got to continue to work every single day to grow him and within all of our packages and just increase his football knowledge. He's a really willing guy and he's going to get better every time he goes out there."
With Okoronkwo sidelined 4-6 weeks due to elbow surgery, Staley said they will be counting on players like Lewis, Samson Ebukam, Justin Hollins and Jachai Polite to step up at outside linebacker. Any increase in Lewis' role or workload will be up to the coaching staff and medical staff, of course, since they were monitoring his reps and just wanted to "get his feet wet" against Washington.
For now, though, Lewis is just happy to be back on the field – and recognizes there's still work to be done.
"I feel like the plays I did play, I left some stuff on the table," Lewis said. "I'm still kind of mad I let Alex Smith get away from me, but it was fun."