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  1. #1
    r8rh8rmike's Avatar
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    Jason Smith Has Up, Down NFL Debut

    Jason Smith has up, down NFL debut

    Jason Smith got a little bit of everything as an NFL rookie. But too much of injuries.

    Smith returned to practice this week but won't play in Sunday's season finale against San Francisco. After missing five games because of a concussion, a week's worth of practice simply isn't enough to get game ready.

    So when all is said and done, the rookie offensive tackle from Baylor will have played in only eight games this season, with five starts.

    At age 23, he already has learned a valuable lesson about his profession. Namely ...

    "Don't take the season, and playing football, for granted," Smith said. "Obviously, there's a lot of people that wish they were able to wake up every morning, let alone be able to play football. At the end of the day, I'm just happy I was able to wake up and be a part of this team."

    That is Smith's rather unorthodox way of saying he's just happy to be alive.

    Although Smith was the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, nothing was handed to him by coach Steve Spagnuolo. Smith didn't move into the starting lineup until just before the regular-season opener.

    Certainly nothing was handed to him once the games started. In the season opener, against the Seahawks, Seattle rookie linebacker Aaron Curry came at Smith's knees low and late downfield after a run by Steven Jackson early in the first quarter. Those are the kinds of plays that can lead to blown-out knees. But Smith was OK, and Curry was fined by the NFL.

    Smith also gave up a sack to Lawrence Jackson in that game, and another ó to Dwight Freeney ó six weeks later against Indianapolis.

    But there were plenty of high spots. In Game 2, against Washington, a block by Smith sealed the edge on a 58-yard run by Jackson ó his longest gain of the year. The play set up the Rams' first touchdown of the season and gave them their first lead of the season.

    In the first Arizona game, on Nov. 22, blocks by Smith and tight end Randy McMichael helped spring Jackson on a 48-yard run that set up a Rams field goal.

    The gain put Jackson over 1,000 yards for a franchise-record fifth consecutive season.

    But for every step forward this season, Smith seemed to take one back.

    Less than 1Ĺ games into his NFL career, Smith suffered a knee injury before halftime of the Washington game.

    He missed the next two games entirely because of the injury then rotated in for three contests before regaining his starting job in Game 8, against Detroit. He flashed his aggressive run-blocking skills against the Lions and was solid in pass protection as well in a 17-10 Rams victory.

    Following the bye, he also started and played well in the next two games.

    "There was a time there when he slid in over there at right tackle and I thought the offensive line was kind of jelling before we ran into all these injuries," Spagnuolo said. "And he was a part of that; so that was a good thing."

    But just when Smith seemed to be settling in, he suffered the concussion. Just three plays after Jackson's long run Nov. 22 against Arizona, Smith took a knee to the head while attempting a cut block. That proved to be the last play of his rookie season.

    Coming right at the time the NFL was placing greater emphasis and scrutiny on concussions, it took Smith five weeks to get back on the practice field.

    "When things weren't right, I just wasn't able to pass'' the neurological exam, Smith said.

    He said he experienced "a combination of a lot of symptoms. Concussions do a lot of different things to you, and make you feel a lot of different ways. And they limit you in being able to do certain things physically."

    Smith couldn't play until he passed the neurological exam; he failed it more than once.

    And because of the league's new concussion guidelines, which came out in the middle of the season, Smith had to be cleared by an independent consultant as well as a Rams doctor before he could return to practice or games.

    As the weeks mounted, so did concerns about the severity of Smith's concussion and the possible long-term effects of the injury.

    Rams offensive guard Jacob Bell was sidelined almost a month during the preseason because of a concussion. But that injury received less notice, perhaps because it occurred in August.

    "I'm always concerned when it's a health issue and you're talking about the head," Spagnuolo said. "But I think the trainers, the doctors ó everybody within the organization ó handled it right. I think Jason handled it right. We were smart about it. And hopefully, going forward, it won't be an issue for him."

    As things now stand, Spagnuolo doesn't think Smith's concussion will factor into how the team approaches the tackle position during the offseason roster-shaping process.

    "I'm sure we'll do more things with him going forward, just to make sure everything's OK," Spagnuolo said. "We're going to plan ahead as if he's OK. I'm hopeful. I'm positive."

  2. #2
    Mooselini Guest

    Re: Jason Smith Has Up, Down NFL Debut

    I hope he can stay healthy next season. He is the new big man after all!

  3. #3
    Aussie Dave's Avatar
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    Re: Jason Smith Has Up, Down NFL Debut

    more than hope, i pray that this doesnt become a routine for him.

    makes you appreciate alex barrons ability to not miss games, if only he didnt waste that talent.

  4. #4
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    Re: Jason Smith Has Up, Down NFL Debut

    Anyone else notice this is the second time Curry has been mentioned taking cheap shots at Rams players? (The first being the Jackson-Curry spat) I for one, was hoping we'd draft him last year, but he's our MLB has outplayed him, and whats with all the cheap shots? Gotta wonder if other teams had complaints about this too.

    Back on topic, I hope that Smith can bounce back next year. With him most likely moving back to the LT spot, and missing time his rookie season, he'll have more to adjust to than most second year tackles. Still, there's a reason the Rams drafted him, and I have faith he'll be productive until given adequate time to prove otherwise.

  5. #5
    eldfan's Avatar
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    Re: Jason Smith Has Up, Down NFL Debut

    After missing five games because of a concussion, a week's worth of practice simply isn't enough to get game ready.
    Glad they are holding him out but this will be a concern moving foward.

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