Thursday, October 23, 2008

By Nick Wagoner
Senior Writer

It was almost exactly a year ago when Eric Bassey got his first call to an active NFL roster.

After spending the entire 2006 season on Buffalo’s practice squad and most of the first half of the 2007 season on the Rams’ practice squad, Bassey finally got the big promotion from the Rams.

On Tuesday, Bassey got the call back to the active roster after spending the first six games of this season back in practice squad purgatory.

“It’s always nice to be rewarded for hard work and like I said my ability to play corner and safety helped me out because once a safety had to come out I can go in at safety, mainly be used on special teams,” Bassey said. “But it’s definitely a good feeling to be back up.”

Bassey played in eight games last year, getting no opportunities to play defense but he got plenty of opportunities on special teams.

A rough start there turned into a positive as Bassey became one of the team’s most talented special teams players. He ended the season with 12 special teams stops in those eight games and made a statement that he could be a contributor there.

“That’s the main reason I can step in right now,” Bassey said. “I can play on special teams like I did all preseason and eight games last year I was up. I can step in and help out immediately and make a big impact on special teams.”

Bassey seemed to make this year’s active roster out of training camp but ended up on the practice squad after a couple of days and a small roster move.

There, Bassey continued to battle and make his case to land back on the roster. With Todd Johnson out the next couple of weeks because of a bruised kidney, Bassey got the call on Tuesday and will be active this week as the third safety and playing on special teams.

Bassey has played both corner and safety and says he’d be comfortable playing either if called on in a game.

“I learned the defense as a safety so I know I can go in there as a safety,” Bassey said. “Corner is not as technical as far as assignment sound so I could go in there physically and play corner but I can’t really say I feel more comfortable at any position. I can play both. I just have to change my mindset when I do.”

Chances are Bassey won’t get that opportunity but if it does arise, he hopes to make enough of an impression so that his practice squad days will be over.

“Get there and stick,” Bassey said. “The thing is you have to take advantage of every opportunity given to you. They are few and far between so when you get them you always have to be ready so I took it upon myself to always stay ready and keep working like I was going to play and it looks like this week I will.”

JACKSON’S PROGRESS: Running back Steven Jackson didn’t do much of anything in Thursday’s practice. He was on the practice field in pads and did some in the pre-practice walk through but he did nothing else and was officially listed as did not participate on the injury report.

Coach Jim Haslett said he hopes Jackson will be available to do some work in practice Friday but ultimately Jackson is the one who can best determine if he’ll be able to play.

“I think it has to be up to him whether he feels good enough, because I’m not in his body and I can’t tell what he’s feeling and every position is different,” Haslett said. “Guys break a finger, obviously they can play. If a running back hurts a leg, it’s a little different. That’s why they call them running backs, because they run all the time. If it was an arm or something, it would be different. Really, I trust his judgment, or the player’s judgment, and then the medical staff and go from there.”

Haslett said as a former player he would always give the benefit of the doubt to the player.

“Me personally, I’m going to error on the side of caution to do what is best for him and do what is best for the team in the long run,” Haslett said. “That’s what I did with Derek Stanley and all of these other guys. Being an ex-player and being in those shoes, I understand exactly what everyone is going through, so I think I can shed a little light on that from that standpoint.”

LONG IS LEARNING: Rookie defensive end Chris Long has continued to improve from game to game and seemingly practice to practice.

With the return of Leonard Little on the opposite end, Long is getting more opportunities to go one on one and make a difference as a pass rusher.

Against Dallas last week, Long was credited with three tackles and five quarterback hits. Facing monster left tackle Flozell Adams, Long came within an eyelash of a sack on five occasions.

Long says he knows he’s improving but still has to keep working to get where he wants to go.

“You take some steps backwards sometimes, but overall you just get more and more comfortable,” Long said. “Sometimes, somebody can tell you something a thousand times, but the only way you can get better is to screw it up once or play through a game and that is what I’m going through right now. I’m having fun and I’m getting comfortable.”

Long has a pair of sacks in the first six games, a number that is only likely to improve as he continues.

But if he grows frustrated by his near misses, he can always turn to his father Howie, who has plenty of advice based on his Hall of Fame resume.

“We talk a lot,” Long said. “Just imagine how much a kid talks to their parent anyways about whatever they’re doing and imagine if he played 13 years, he’d have some stuff to say. He’s done a good job, though, giving me my space and really it’s just when I have questions. We talk every day just as father and son.”

VERMEIL TO BE HONORED: The Rams announced Thursday that the Nov. 2 game against Arizona will have more meaning than just a potential battle with Arizona for first place in the NFC West Division.

The Rams will honor former coach Dick Vermeil by unveiling his name in the team’s Ring of Honor at the Edward Jones Dome at halftime of that contest.

“Dick Vermeil was a tremendous coach and is an even better person, who provided so much to the city of St. Louis and the Rams organization,” owner/chairman Chip Rosenbloom said. “We are thrilled to celebrate a man who was a great source of pride and happiness for our mom and her beloved Rams fans.”

The ceremony will feature a video tribute to Vermeil, the man who led the Rams to a win in Super Bowl XXXIV.

Tickets for that game remain in limited supply and can be purchased here at stlouisrams.com or by calling 314-425-8830.

INJURY REPORT: The Rams had just one change to the injury report and it came in the form of good news.

Receiver Derek Stanley was cleared to practice and was full participation. A final determination has not been made on his status for this weekend but it looks more promising than it did a day ago.

Tackle Orlando Pace and running back Antonio Pittman were also full participation.

The did not participate list includes receiver Drew Bennett (foot), defensive tackle Adam Carriker (ankle), cornerback Tye Hill (knee), Jackson and safety Todd Johnson (bruised kidney).

Along with Jackson, Carriker is the only one of the group with an undetermined status. Carriker’s ankle is improving but Haslett didn’t sound terribly optimistic when asked about him Thursday.

“I think Adam’s iffy, but we’ll see, he wants to play,” Haslett said. “I know it’s a lot better today, but I don’t know if it will be good enough.”