Bennett Preparing to Play
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
By Nick Wagoner
Sunday’s regular season opener against Carolina was supposed to be a zenith of sorts for receiver Drew Bennett.
It had been a long offseason for Bennett, who had entered the free agent market for the first time and signed the biggest offseason contract handed out by the Rams in 2007.
Given the months of preparation and time spent getting acclimated to coach Scott Linehan’s offense, the first game was supposed to be Bennett’s first chance to show the people of St. Louis what he could do. He even flew his parents in from Orinda, Calif., to watch him and see his new home.
But all of those hopes were dashed by a left quadriceps injury Bennett suffered in practice on Sept. 1. Bennett tried to play through the pain and did a little more work in each day of practice leading up to the opener, but ultimately was unable to answer the bell against the Panthers.
“I wanted to play,” Bennett said. “I wasn’t surprised. I didn’t really practice all week. I was disappointed I didn’t play in the opener and it’s my first season here and I really wanted to get out there and play. It’s a long season, I am looking forward now. I feel a lot more healthy and I feel a lot better right now. I expect to practice all week.”
Indeed, Bennett returned to the practice field Wednesday and was able to participate in almost everything. So, even though it was delayed a week, signs are pointing toward Bennett making his Rams’ regular season debut against the ***** this week.
Bennett initially injured the leg in a practice when he took off on a go route. Bennett didn’t think the injury was too bad at first, but after practice the leg began to swell up and got stiff and eventually sore.
Bennett did little in practice for the rest of the week and attempted to test the leg in pre-game warm-ups. Eventually, though, Linehan decided it wasn’t worth the risk of making matters worse.
“We felt like if we had played him, he could have taken a couple of steps back,” Linehan said. “He could have helped us in some situations possibly, but he wouldn’t have been as effective as we would like him to be.”
Bennett said if given the choice he probably would have played, but understood the logic of his coach in keeping him down against the Panthers.
“The situation is you could play, but we would have to keep somebody down behind you,” Bennett said. “He said, ‘I’d rather have you healthy for 15 games than have you dealing with this for the next three or four weeks.’ I can appreciate that. I wanted to play but I can appreciate where he is coming from and he makes the calls. I am happy that I will be healthy this week.”
Bennett was back on the practice field Wednesday after doing some extensive running work with strength coach Brad Roll in the past few days. He took his usual spot as the third receiver and appeared to be OK.
The hardest part for Bennett, though, is keeping his quad loose.
“The game sometimes as the third wideout you can go six or seven plays or two series where you don’t go in there so you have to get on the bike, run on the sidelines, stretch it,” Bennett said. “I have to be careful sitting on it then running out and going full speed. I have to take it kind of slow and slowly work into practice this week.”
Bennett said his parents won’t be making the return trip this week. But Bennett knows they will get plenty of opportunities this season to see him.
“I was so looking forward to the culmination of all this offseason stuff and all the training camp stuff,” Bennett said. “To come to an opener and not play is disappointing. But that’s part of the game and I have to look forward and not look back.”
If things keep going at this pace, Bennett will be on the field for the first time as a Ram this week against San Francisco.
ROSTER MOVEMENT: The variety of news and activity at Russell Training Center the past two days has been a bit dizzying. But by Wednesday afternoon, it appeared the Rams had finally settled all of their roster issues.
For those keeping score, in the past two days the Rams released fullback Madison Hedgecock and practice squad cornerback Josh Lay, placed left tackle Orlando Pace on injured reserve and defensive tackle Claude Wroten was suspended four games for violation of the league’s substance abuse policy.
Those moves created three spots on the active roster with an additional spot on the practice squad available. All of those spots have now been filled. The Rams signed tight end/fullback Richard Owens and offensive tackle Brandon Gorin to the active roster on Tuesday night. Cornerback Eric Bassey was signed to the practice squad, also.
Owens is in his fourth season after spending three seasons with the Vikings. He has 16 catches for 132 yards and a touchdown in his career playing mostly tight end. In St. Louis, he will serve mainly as a fullback/H-Back.
He worked with the running backs in Wednesday’s practice and is familiar with Linehan’s system from their time together in Minnesota.
“It always feels good to be around somebody that is familiar,” Owens said. “The biggest part is just getting familiar with the system. There are some little familiarities. It’s going to take some time to learn those little details.”
Gorin also comes to the Rams with plenty of experience on his resume. He is in his seventh NFL season and started 18 games for New England in 2004 and 2005. He was with the Cardinals in 2006, but did not play for them.
Linehan said Gorin will work mostly at right tackle for the time being.
“He had a good workout for us,” Linehan said. “He has played in this league. He’s a guy that has played the position and has some experience and it won’t take him very long to pickup on what we are doing.”
Bassey spent the preseason with Buffalo after a solid career at Oklahoma. He joins Darius Vinnett as cornerbacks on the practice squad.
On Wednesday, the Rams added defensive tackle Louis Leonard, a 6’4 330-pound undrafted free agent from the Chargers practice squad.
Leonard had 68 tackles with 6.5 sacks in his time at Fresno State and made an impression on the coaching staff when the Rams played San Diego in the preseason.
“We were very impressed by his size and potential and ability,” Linehan said. “He was very effective and played nose guard for them in their 3-4 and was a load for us. He’s a good young player.”
It’s not likely any of the new additions will be ready in time for Sunday, but it won’t be long before some are called upon and if the need arises, some could be on the 45-man active game day roster.
INJURY REPORT: While Bennett was making positive progress toward a return, a pair of important Rams spent Wednesday’s practice watching from the sidelines.
Linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa suffered an ankle sprain in Sunday’s game and sat out most of Wednesday’s workout. Tinoisamoa is day to day.
Guard Richie Incognito is also still recovering from a high ankle sprain and an aggravation of that injury suffered last week. Incognito is wearing a brace and a boot. He will probably miss another week or two.
Linehan said Incognito and Tinoisamoa will be evaluated as the week goes on.
“We will decide at what level we will do anything if any tomorrow,” Linehan said.
Along with Bennett, defensive end Victor Adeyanju returned to practice. Adeyanju worked mostly at end during Wednesday’s practice but will likely take some snaps at the three technique tackle this week.
Because Leonard is more of a nose tackle, the Rams will need some help behind La’Roi Glover at the three technique as Claude Wroten serves his four game suspension. Adam Carriker will probably get an opportunity there also with Clifton Ryan working in at nose.
Linehan said he expects Adeyanju to join Bennett this weekend.
“I think both did well,” Linehan said. “I think it’s very favorable for both of them for Sunday. We pulled back a little with both toward the end of practice but both seemed to be much better.”
RAM BITS: Chris Draft worked in place of Tinoisamoa at weak side linebacker Wednesday…Owens worked with the running backs in individual drills and will be used almost exclusively as a fullback/H-back for the Rams…Adeyanju was wearing a brace on his knee during practice but did most of the work…Tickets for Sunday’s game are still available here at stlouisrams.com, at any TicketMaster outlet or by calling (314) 421-4400 in Missouri or (618) 222-2900 in Illinois.
Re: Bennett Preparing to Play
Hey look we actually signed somebody for the defense (and he's huge.) I knew old Scotty would come threw for us.