Jake Long's knee injury clouds OT picture
3 hours ago • By Jim Thomas

Left tackle Jake Long undoubtedly will miss the final game of the Rams’ 2013 season after suffering what the team fears is a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

“We’re suspecting that he has a torn ACL,” coach Jeff Fisher said following the Rams’ 23-13 victory over Tampa Bay. “That was the doctor’s report.”

Long will have additional testing today to confirm the extent of the injury. Acquired via free agency in March, Long suffered the knee injury on the Rams’ third offensive play of the game. No one landed on the knee, it just seemed to buckle while Long was pass-blocking. Long immediately grabbed the knee, and he left the field on a cart.

Rodger Saffold, who started the game at right guard, switched over the Long’s left tackle spot for the rest of the day. Shelley Smith came off the bench to take over at right guard.

Saffold, who has also started at right tackle this season, will fill Long’s spot at left tackle in the season finale next Sunday at Seattle.

“I kind of blame my father for this move today,” Saffold said in the locker room after Sunday’s game. “He called me and said, ‘God forbid anything happen. Just be ready.’

“Of course after the first series I’m playing tackle for the rest of the game. Basically what it comes down to is just knowing my rules. I did feel a little bit rusty in some of my things because I haven’t practiced at left tackle in a while.”

After playing guard and tackle, why not get a couple of snaps in at center against the Seahawks?

“I don’t know about that. I pray to God Timmy (Barnes) stays out there,” Saffold said. “Wherever they need me to be, I’m going to be.”

The long-term concern for the Rams once they head into the offseason is what to do about the tackle position for 2014. Long’s injury took place two months after the ACL injury (and surgery) of quarterback Sam Bradford.

So while Bradford is expected to be ready for the start of the 2014 season, that probably won’t be the case with Long. The injury and expected surgery could alter the Rams’ draft plans, particularly with offensive tackle Jake Matthews of Texas A&M expected to be a top five pick.

Current Rams right tackle Joe Barksdale is under contract for the 2014 season. But Saffold is scheduled for unrestricted free agency, and it’s anything but a certainty that he’ll re-sign with the Rams.

NO TAVON

As expected, wide-receiver and return man Tavon Austin did not play because of an ankle injury suffered two weeks ago in Arizona. Austin hasn’t practiced since the injury. Justin Veltung handled punt return chores in Austin’s absence and finished with three returns for 34 yards, including a long of 15 yards.

Veltung had a 16-yard return in the second quarter reduced to a 5-yarder because of an illegal block in the back by Brandon McGree.

Besides Austin, the Rams’ other inactives were RB Daryl Richardson (thigh), CB Quinton Pointer, RG Harvey Dahl, OG Brandon Washington, DT Matt Conrath and OT Mike Person.

RAM-BLINGS

All six of Greg Zuerlein’s six kickoffs resulted in touchbacks Sunday, making it two games in a row _ and 11 kickoffs _ without allowing a return.

• Tampa Bay gained a season-low 170 yards against the Rams, with 59 yards rushing (on 23 carries) and 111 net passing yards.

• With only NFC West rival Seattle remaining on the schedule, the Rams finished 6-4 against non-division opponents this season. They went 3-7 last season outside of the division.

• With Sunday’s victory, the Rams finished 5-3 at home this season, marking only the second time since 2004 that they have won as many as five games in a season at the Edward Jones Dome.

• One week after getting his first NFL interception, rookie safety T.J. McDonald had his first NFL sack Sunday.