By Bill Coats
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Friday, Sep. 09 2005

While Jimmy Kennedy's broken right foot healed last year, his psyche also was
on the mend.

Three months on the sideline "allowed me to appreciate what I'm doing and
accept this job as a blessing," said Kennedy, a defensive tackle out of Penn
State who was the 12th overall selection in the 2003 draft. "Not everybody can
play football."

Some observers wondered whether Kennedy could play football as he struggled
through a wrenching rookie season. Out of shape and unprepared for the jump to
the NFL, Kennedy wasn't even allowed to suit up for the first two games and
didn't get on the field until the fourth. By season's end, he had recorded a
mere 10 tackles.

When the fifth metatarsal bone on his right foot snapped early in training camp
last year, Kennedy feared that another season had been lost. He figured he'd go
on injured reserve, but coach Mike Martz nixed that idea. He wanted Kennedy to
put in the necessary work - and learn how to deal with pain - in an effort to
salvage at least a part of the season.

Kennedy not only bulked up in the weight room and rehabbed furiously, he
decided to modify the way he approached the game.

"I felt myself trying to please the organization," he said. "I forgot that the
Rams drafted me because they had to see something in me in college, and I
wasn't playing my game my first year. I was too busy trying to play (defensive
line coach Bill) Kollar's game, Mike Martz's game and the rest of those guys'
games upstairs.

"That was because I didn't know what it took to become a pro. So I said, 'You
know what? Just let me play the way I played in college and just pick it up a
notch.' And that's all I'm doing right now."

Despite considerable soreness, Kennedy started the last five regular-season
games and both playoff contests. He defended his first-team status throughout
camp and will be in the lineup Sunday when the Rams open the season.

"He's had a very good preseason," Martz said. "I thought that particularly in
the last two games, he showed up bigger and bigger. We need to have him be that
way during the season."

As for the foot, Kennedy said: "It feels great. I don't even think about it
anymore."

Hodges is rarin' to go

Rookie punter Reggie Hodges, who withstood a rough start in camp as well as a
challenge from veteran Bryan Barker, is awaiting his first regular-season NFL
action impatiently.

"I can't wait," said Hodges, a sixth-round draft pick from Ball State. "I've
had a pretty good week of practice. I've been concentrating real hard. It's
going good. I'm ready to go."

Fellow rookie Claude Terrell, a guard, also is eager for Sunday's kickoff to
arrive. "Opening weekend in the NFL ... I'm glad to be a part of it," he said.

For fullback Madison Hedgecock, a seventh-round pick who beat out incumbent
Joey Goodspeed, the short jog through the tunnel at Monster Park will complete
an improbable journey that began years ago in his native Wallburg, N.C.

"When I was young I was like, 'Yeah, I'd love to play in the NFL.' But you
don't ever really think that it'll happen to you," he said. "When I get out
there and hear the crowd roaring ... I'm anticipating it to be real exciting."

Ram-blings

The Rams head into their 11th season in St. Louis with eight rookies but also
nine players who have been in the league for at least 10 years. ... Although he
was listed as probable on Friday's injury report, the availability of defensive
tackle Damione Lewis (toe) is uncertain. ... Cornerback Terry Fair (neck) won't
play.