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    Kennedy puts best foot forward

    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Sunday, Aug. 07 2005

    Nearly a year ago to the day, on Aug. 5, 2004, Rams defensive tackle Jimmy
    Kennedy planted during a practice drill against the Chicago Bears, made a cut
    and felt something pop.

    Kennedy, the No. 12 overall draft pick in 2003, had fractured the fifth
    metatarsal in his right foot. After a disappointing rookie season, it looked
    like Year 2 was down the tubes as well and that Kennedy was on his way to being
    a first-round bust.

    Surprisingly, Kennedy now says that the foot injury was "good for me."

    In fact, he added: "I think that's the best thing that ever happened to me
    since I've been a Ram, is me breaking my foot."

    Huh?

    "It allowed all the attention to be on me," Kennedy said. "And I needed that.
    In terms of rehab, it allowed the coaches to say, 'Damn, this dude really
    works.' Because when you come out of college, you get labeled."

    For Kennedy, that label included having weight problems, not always running to
    the ball, and being something less than a workout warrior.

    In Kennedy's mind, it wasn't a case of him suddenly discovering the weight
    room. He claims his upper body strength was always there - it's just that Rams
    coaches simply noticed it once he was sidelined.

    "You just don't start going in the weight room and throwing up X amount of
    weights with reps," Kennedy said. "You've got to work up to that over years.
    You know what I'm saying?"

    At the time of the injury, the Rams considered putting Kennedy on the injured
    reserve list, which would have ended his season. In fact, Kennedy wanted to go
    on injured reserve after seeing Jason Sehorn struggle to come back from a
    similar injury.

    "Coach (Mike) Martz said, 'No, we want you to play (in '04),'" Kennedy said.
    "It's something I had to fight through."

    Turns out Kennedy missed only the first seven games of 2004. Despite
    experiencing soreness in the foot, he played well enough to start the Rams'
    final five regular-season contests.

    "It just really worked out good that we didn't put him on IR," defensive line
    coach Bill Kollar said. "When he came back off of that injury is when he really
    started to turn the corner."

    The momentum gained by playing the second half of last season, coupled with a
    strong offseason in the weight room, has Kennedy poised for a breakthrough
    campaign in 2005.

    "It's probably the most dramatic change in any football player that I've ever
    been around in one year," Martz said. "From where he was a year ago to where he
    is right now, he's not even the same person.

    "I think when kids come in as a No. 1 pick like that, there's just so much
    pressure on them. Physically, he wasn't ready to play. There's a pride factor
    in there, too. We were asking him to do things he couldn't do yet, physically.
    So he took it upon himself to get physically prepared, and with that came the
    confidence. And I think he's really enjoying himself."

    There's no doubt Kennedy has some of the swagger back that he brought with him
    from Penn State. It has been missing since early in his rookie season,
    seemingly disappearing along with Kennedy's weight.

    Lovie Smith, the Rams' defensive coordinator at the time, was a stickler for
    having his defensive linemen as trim as possible. Kennedy reported to training
    camp that year at 317 pounds, the lightest he has been as a Ram.

    "My mental part was there, but I just couldn't get any lighter," Kennedy said.
    "So the physical part wasn't there. Last year, the physical part was there, but
    the mental wasn't there."

    Kennedy said he struggled last year to be the power player that he felt the
    Rams wanted him to be.

    "When you see me - 6-4, 320-330 - you're thinking, 'Let's have this guy get
    over this little guard and just power him to death,'" Kennedy said. "But I'm
    not the Ryan Pickett or the Damione Lewis. I think I have more shake than those
    guys. I'm not a power guy. I'm going to make you miss, and I'm going to change
    up with power. But I can also hit you with power and change up with speed."

    As Kennedy sees it, part of the reason for his improved play is that Kollar not
    only has adapted to him, but also to his playing style.

    "I'm trying to adapt to his ways, too," Kennedy said. "I mean, he's a hell of a
    coach. Right now, being under him, I don't see myself playing for anyone else
    because he gets the best out of us."

    Which is a far cry from two years ago, when Kennedy struggled mightily with
    Kollar's tough-love approach.

    "My rookie year, if you looked at me, I'd be (thinking), 'Man, if this dude
    says something else to me, I'm going to punch him in the face,'" Kennedy said.
    "That's just real. It's hard not to (feel that way). I'm a man first.

    "But as time went on, you realize that he has your best interests at heart. And
    when the man has your best interests at heart, it's hard for you not to be in
    his corner."

    So far in training camp, there have been times when Kennedy looks unblockable.
    Without the old weight restrictions, Kennedy reported at 328 pounds this year.
    But he looks faster and stronger. His foot feels fine. His attitude is upbeat.

    Realizing that the Rams have yet to play even a preseason game in '05, Kollar
    isn't quite ready to say that Kennedy is Canton-bound. But even Kollar concedes
    that Kennedy's career, literally, is back on the right foot.

    "He's playing a lot better," Kollar said. "More confidence. Playing stronger.
    ... But he still has a ways to go to get where we want him to end up being."


  2. #2
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    Re: Kennedy puts best foot forward

    OK, I am officially drooling again


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