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Cleeland is back to take roster spot held by Williams
By Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Rams tight end Roland Williams had barely returned to town - on crutches, his badly damaged right knee in a heavy brace - when his replacement boarded a flight for St. Louis.
Cam Cleeland was due to arrive late Monday night to begin his second go-round with the team. If he passes a physical exam and signs a contract, Cleeland, 30, is expected to be on the field Wednesday when the team resumes practice.
"Cam's a very good player," coach Mike Martz said. "I'd love to have him back on this team. I know what he can do. He can make a lot of plays for us."
After four years in New Orleans and one with New England, the 6-foot-5, 270-pound Cleeland spent the 2003 and '04 seasons with the Rams. He played in 32 regular-season games, starting 18. He totaled 17 receptions for 202 yards. For his career, Cleeland has caught 126 passes for 1,461 yards and 12 touchdowns.
His biggest moment with the Rams came in last season's first-round playoff game in his hometown of Seattle. His 17-yard TD catch with 2 minutes 11 seconds remaining gave the Rams a 27-20 victory.
The emergency call went out after Williams dislocated his right knee in the first quarter of Sunday's 44-24 loss to the New York Giants in East Rutherford, N.J. Williams caught a 2-yard pass, then crumpled to the ground after he was hit low by cornerback Curtis Deloatch.
"It's a very severe injury," Martz said. "The biggest concern at the time was the vessels in the leg, that there's no damage there. They checked him out last night and made sure that that was OK. He'll have to have a major repair of the knee. He's done for the season."
Williams' agent, Harold Lewis, said the surgery hadn't been scheduled yet. "They'll have to wait for the swelling to go down first," Lewis said.
Williams was hired in March to take Cleeland's spot on the roster. Cleeland wasn't signed after his contract expired, and he went back home. "He wasn't sure whether he wanted to continue playing," Martz said. But when the Rams called shortly after Sunday's game, "There was a terrific reaction by Cam," Martz said.
The Rams' first-team tight end, Brandon Manumaleuna, sat out Sunday with a sprained knee suffered a week earlier against Tennessee. Asked about Manumaleuna's availability for Sunday's home game against Seattle, Martz said: "He's very close. I don't know whether he'll play this week or not. If there's a risk, any risk at all, he won't play. Same with Isaac (Bruce). We'll move on and wait until they're completely ready to go."
Wide receiver Bruce, who is fighting a "turf toe" injury, also was sidelined Sunday.
Martz regrets call
The botched reverse that snuffed a long drive and handed the momentum back to the Giants was an unfortunate result of a couple of miscues, Martz explained.
First, he said he regretted ordering the play, which came with the Rams at the New York 6-yard line and looking to put a dent in the Giants' 27-17 lead. "I kick myself in the butt for calling the play. There were probably a million other things we could do," he said.
Second, a personnel mixup left running back Marshall Faulk on the sideline; he normally is the pitch man to wideout Shaun McDonald. Martz said Faulk had "just come out (of the game), and by the time he got out, we couldn't get him back in."
Quarterback Marc Bulger handed off to Steven Jackson heading toward the left side. As McDonald steamed toward him, Jackson hesitated briefly, and when he pitched the ball, it glanced off McDonald's hands. Giants tackle Fred Robbins recovered.
"If we go down and not fumble that ball, who knows what happens?" Martz said. But even with Jackson in instead of Faulk, "We still should be able to execute the play," he said. "There's still not an excuse."
Learn for charity
"Football University" is accepting enrollment for its session Monday at the Roberts Orpheum Theater, 416 N. Ninth Street. Rams players will act as "professors" for the program, which features instruction on football fundamentals as well as interactive games.
Doors will open at 5:30 p.m., and "classes" will run from 7-9 p.m. General admission is $60. VIP tickets, which include a reception and reserved seating, are $100. Proceeds will go to charity. Tickets can be purchased online at ticketmaster.com or by phone at 314-421-4400 or 618-222-2900.
For more information, go to stlouisrams.com or call 314- 385-8088.