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Terrell Lewis eager to take advantage of potential bigger role

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Whether it was pressuring Bucs quarterback Tom Brady or delivering a crushing tackle during last Sunday's game, it was hard to miss Rams outside linebacker Terrell Lewis.

Of course, there were also plenty of opportunities to see him make those types of plays with him playing 34 of 73 defensive snaps against Tampa Bay.

More chances will be coming, too.

With Justin Hollins on Injured Reserve after undergoing surgery to repair a partially-torn pectoral muscle, Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris mentioned Lewis as players one of the players who will take on increased roles – along with Ogbo Okoronkwo and rookie Earnest Brown IV – to help offset Hollins' absence.

"I'm definitely excited," Lewis told after Thursday's practice. "Definitely want to pick up where Justin left off. I know that feels to go through (stuff) like that. But yeah, going through stuff like that, you always tip your hat to him, tell him to keep his head up, stay in it, not get down on yourself and things like that. But definitely want to just pick up where he left off and obviously I'm excited."

That perspective is what makes last Sunday's game and the potential opportunities ahead all the more meaningful for Lewis.

At Alabama, he missed 10 games during his 2017 sophomore season due to an upper arm injury, then sustained a knee injury prior to the start of his 2018 junior season that sidelined him for the entire season before emerging as a Second Team All-SEC selection by league coaches as a redshirt junior in 2019.

Then, as he was gearing up for his rookie season with the Rams, he was placed on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury list prior to the start of it as he dealt with atrophy from a knee procedure he underwent. That procedure was done because of infection concerns from a previous procedure, and while no infection was discovered, the atrophy prompted Los Angeles to place him on that list.

Consequently, the move delayed his debut until Week 5 against Washington. However, as his mindset would indicate, he was ready.

On one play, he long-armed Washington left tackle Geron Christian Sr. toward quarterback Alex Smith to create pressure. Smith narrowly escaping the collapsing pocket was the only reason Lewis didn't get the sack.

This season, the Rams had Lewis "on a little a pitch count" through the first two weeks, according to Morris – not for Lewis, but for the team's sake to make sure it was getting him going in the right direction. They then gave him what head coach Sean McVay described as "by far his biggest workload" in Week 3 against the Bucs, and he finished with two total tackles and one QB hit in the Rams' 34-24 win.

Of course, the impact went beyond what showed up in the box score.

"(He) gave us great energy," Morris said Thursday. "(He) gave us great hand usage. Set the edge. When it was required towards the end of the stretch, some really dynamic pass rush. He's got great length. He's able to use his length against tackles, he's able to use his length against anybody they put on to block him. He creates a problem up there. When he's up and going and he's healthy, he is very dynamic for us."

Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald echoed similar sentiments.

"He came in as a rookie last year. He'd been playing good football when he's out there," Donald said Thursday. "So, for him to get more snaps and get opportunity to be more productive and show what he can do, he was excited about it. He made some big plays for us, and he got to continue to do that, and continue to get better. And we have to make sure that he's healthy and that he's able to do that."

Lewis' mindset has always been the same, regardless of the scope of his role.

And as his first opportunity to take advantage of potential increased playing time awaits this Sunday against the Cardinals, he's eager to make the most of it.

"I feel like I always stay ready for moments like that," Lewis said. "Just coming from Alabama, it's always been a next-man-up type of mindset. Always stay ready and prepare as if I'm a starter. So just excited to get my feet wet and really establish myself and let people see who I am as a player."

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