Kennedy could get first start on Sunday


R.B. FALLSTROM

Associated Press



ST. LOUIS - More than a season-and-a-half after the St. Louis Rams drafted Jimmy Kennedy in the first round, he's starting to return on the investment.

There's a good chance the defensive tackle will get his first career start on Sunday. It's been a long wait for the 12th pick of the 2003 draft, who was a seldom-used backup as a rookie and then broke his right foot early in training camp this year.

"He's making outstanding progress," coach Mike Martz said Friday. "He's done everything we've asked him to do and he's getting a lot better."

The Rams (5-6) have been preparing Kennedy as a reserve the last four games, giving him progressively more playing time. Kennedy could get the nod on Sunday against the ***** (1-10) ahead of another former No. 1 pick, Damione Lewis, after undrafted Brian Howard started at left tackle last week.

"It's been a battle, a tough battle fighting through the soreness, scar tissue breaking up and going out there and still practicing," Kennedy said. "The way I feel right now is I missed so much time that even if it's sore I want to be out there on the field."

The foot bothers him most when he switches surfaces. The Rams work out on grass outdoors, have a Fieldturf indoor facility and play their home games on rock-hard artificial turf.

"Sometimes it hurts, sometimes it bothers me when I plant, and sometimes it hurts me when I'm just running," Kennedy said.

As a rookie, Kennedy was criticized by coaches for being overweight and for having a lackadaisical attitude. He's happy with his play thus far this year and said the best is yet to come, but doesn't yet feel a need to prove drafting him was the correct move.

"I think they're starting to get a little respect for me," Kennedy said. "That being said, I've still got a long way to go. If I go out there saying I have something to prove I feel like I'm at the top of my game, and I'm far from being at the top of my game."

That's because of his largely wasted rookie year, and the first seven games of this season. Kennedy had five tackles, three of them solos, against the Packers.

"I barely played last year, so when I go out there I feel like I make rookie mistakes sometimes," Kennedy said. "Mistakes I should have made last year, I'm doing now, but I'm working on that."

Kennedy is one of perhaps three new starters for Sunday's game. Steven Jackson will start ahead of a gimpy Marshall Faulk, bothered by a bruised left knee, and Antuan Edwards, a waiver pickup from Miami last month, will start at free safety ahead of Rich Coady.

Jackson, the first running back taken in the draft, is looking forward to his first shot at being the Rams' feature back. He's the heir apparent to Faulk, in his 11th season.

Jackson's season bests are 13 carries against the Bucs on Oct. 18 and 64 yards at Seattle on Nov. 10. At Oregon State he rushed for 3,625 yards and 39 touchdowns in 36 games, so he's accustomed to much heavier duty.

"It's been different but at the same time it's giving me a chance to get my feet wet," Jackson said. "I've been able to participate in all of the games so it's not like I'm coming in with cold feet."

Edwards saw his first action on Monday in a loss at Green Bay after being claimed on Nov. 11 and impressed the coaching staff with eight tackles, seven of them solos. Besides learning the playbook, he had to recover from a groin injury when he joined the Rams.

"Considering I'm a new guy in the system it was an average performance, I guess," Edwards said. "When I get a chance to learn exactly what's going on around me I think I can be a little more effective."

Notes:@ WR Torry Holt had two false starts in a five-play span at Green Bay that he blamed on being overanxious about plays called for him. "I wanted to get going, I wanted to make a play. It won't happen this week." ... For the first time in about a month, Martz dispensed with full-contact workouts on the first practice of the week. "It's all about getting to the right spot," Martz said. "The physical aspect wasn't really a concern." Martz also cut practice about 20 minutes short on Friday.