Bassey Gives 'Special' Effort
Friday, November 23, 2007

By Nick Wagoner

Senior Writer

Making your way in the NFL is a lot easier when you’re drafted in the first round, receive a large signing bonus and are essentially handed a starting job from day one.

For Eric Bassey, the easy path was not an option. Bassey was a standout cornerback and safety at the University of Oklahoma, playing in 48 games with 112 tackles, a pair of sacks, three forced fumbles and three interceptions in a four year career that saw the Sooners go 44-9.

In other words, it was the kind of career at a prestigious place that generally lands a player a NFL gig. But Bassey didn’t get that opportunity. Every team bypassed him in the 2006 NFL Draft and he spent that season on the Buffalo Bills practice squad.

This year, Bassey didn’t even land back on that practice squad and the Rams signed him to their “show” team on Sept. 12.

After a month of getting acclimated to St. Louis and the Rams’ defense and special teams, Bassey finally got his chance when he signed to the active roster on Oct. 12.

Of course, Bassey’s spot on the roster didn’t translate to a starting job, at least not on defense. Used to working as a cornerback or safety almost exclusively, Bassey was being asked to make a difference in special teams.

Bassey wasn’t a complete stranger to special teams, but he wasn’t exactly a veteran in that phase of the game either.

“I was a corner and safety at Oklahoma but I always get out there and run around on special teams and return some punts and cover kicks at the flyer position,” Bassey said. “I did not have much experience but enough to know it’s important to the football team. When you are out there you have to get the job done.”

Bassey took what knowledge of how to play special teams and combined it with his insatiable desire to land permanently on a NFL roster. Given his chance to succeed in that area for the first time, Bassey is making the most of the opportunity.

On any given special teams play, Bassey can be found hunting down the returner, making a tackle, busting the wedge or throwing his body around with reckless abandon.

Bassey made his debut against Baltimore on Oct. 14 and played the following week against Seattle. His impact was minimal in those games, but he began to get a better grasp on how to do his job soon after.

“You have to have a warrior mentality,” Bassey said. “First of all, you have to have a lot of skills. Like on punt team, you have to go from offense to defense in one play and that takes some skill. You run down to cover and then you have got to be a defender. It takes some skill. You have to have the mentality that you are going to go to the ball and just specialize in everything you are doing.”

Things clicked for Bassey after he had a hand in allowing Seattle’s Nate Burleson to return a kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown. In the three games since, Bassey has seemingly been involved in every coverage tackle the team has made.

Against Cleveland, New Orleans and San Francisco, Bassey has racked up eight special teams tackles, including three against the Browns and three against the Saints. He earned the team’s Special Teams Player of the Week honors for those performances.

And Bassey hasn’t been shy about letting his opponent know what he thinks when he makes a stop.

“It’s high impact and it’s violent,” Bassey said. “When you have that type of violence you have guys scratching and pulling and tugging and doing whatever and mouthing off. And you get in the spur of the moment so you are mouthing off. It’s exciting.”

Many players have made careers out of being special teams stalwarts. Player such as Steve Tasker and Mosi Tatupu earned reputations for their ability in kick and punt coverage.

Bassey wouldn’t be against that, but he views his work on special teams as a jumping off point for the rest of his career.

“I would rather do that and establish myself on special teams and get a shot on the defense as opposed to playing defense and having to make up for it later in my career on special teams,” Bassey said. “I think this route is one a lot of guys take it and it’s a route that is good for the players to get an opportunity to get out there and show what they can do.”

TELEVISED RAMS: The blackout has been lifted.

Rams executive vice president/general counsel Bob Wallace said Friday morning that Sunday’s game against Seattle is officially a sellout and will be televised locally on KTVI-Fox 2.

The sellout comes on the heels of two straight wins on the road for the Rams that boosted their record to 2-8. The previous two games at the Edward Jones Dome were blacked out because of NFL rules that mandate a television blackout when the home team does not sell out the stadium.

“That’s good,” receiver Torry Holt said. “I’m glad that the fans are acknowledging us and coming out and supporting us. I am excited that people locally can see the game. It will be on T.V. and I am glad people can see this football team. I’m excited. It’s good for the fans.”

Sunday’s game begins at noon.

INJURY REPORT: The Rams’ injury report looks much better this week as only one player is questionable this week.

Defensive end James Hall’s status is in question as he works with a sore ankle. Hall missed the first two practices of the week and returned Friday.

Hall is questionable this week, but says he will be ready to go.

“Yeah, I’m going to go,” Hall said. “As of today, I will. It got stronger through the course of the week and the swelling went down. It feels like it did at this point last week and I was able to go last week.”

Either way, expect to see plenty of rotating among Eric Moore, Trevor Johnson and even rookie Adam Carriker in Hall’s spot.

Center Brett Romberg (ankle), tackle Alex Barron (neck) and linebacker Will Witherspoon (foot) are probable and should all be ready to go.

Barron is expected to start as usual at left tackle with Milford Brown at left guard, Todd Steussie at right guard and Brandon Gorin at right tackle.

The only question is at center. Romberg is expected to be back and healthy, but it’s a strong possibility that McCollum will remain in the lineup after starting the past few games in the middle.