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King works to re-establish himself
By BILL COATS
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
It was all going so well in the early part of training camp last year for Rams rookie Justin King. A fourth-round draft pick from Penn State, King was challenging Jonathan Wade for the No. 4 cornerback spot.
Then King's big toe gave out in the preseason opener at Tennessee. Just like that, his season was over.
"It was extremely tough, just sitting there and knowing that there's nothing you can do about it," said King, who had surgery for a torn ligament. While his new teammates were struggling through a 2-14 season, King was hobbling through Rams Park with his foot in an orthopedic boot.
"It was a long season," King said. "And now we have a whole different coaching staff and I've got to re-establish myself coming off the injury."
After months of rehab, King is back in uniform and participating in the team's second spring minicamp. The toe "gets a little sore every once in a while, but nothing to hold me down," King reported. "It's coming around."
One of the starting cornerback spots belongs to Ron Bartell, but the other is open for competition. Tye Hill, who played in just four games before suffering a season-ending knee injury, has been working with the first unit, and Wade has been the nickel back.
Still, the 5-foot-11, 188-pound King is conceding nothing.
"I look at it as true competition," he said. "I just want to go out and try to get better every day, and let the coaches make their decisions."
Instead of doing his mending back home in Pittsburgh, King remained here virtually all last season. He decided that if he couldn't advance himself on the field, he could make strides elsewhere.
"I used to do scouting reports for the defensive backs on the opposing teams' offenses," King said. "It's one thing to be hurt and it's another thing to just be away from it all for a year. So I tried to stay around it as much as possible."
After establishing himself as a mainstay in the secondary and earning a new contract that could net him $28 million over four seasons, fifth-year pro Bartell is feeling like a rookie again. He acknowledged that his head is swimming as he tries to absorb a new defensive scheme.
"Learning a whole new defense is like learning how to read all over again," Bartell said. "We spent the last three years in the same defense and we got to know that pretty well. Then to throw that out the window, learn new terminology, new techniques, new blitzes, new coverages, it's definitely different. ...
"The old way wasn't working. Now we have to do it this way, and hopefully it works out."
SPEED IMPRESSES SMITH
His first four NFL practices behind him, first-round draft choice Jason Smith already has determined that the biggest difference from the college game is the overall speed.
"The team plays very, very fast, and as a person that's just coming in, I've got to catch up to the speed of the team," said Smith, who has been working with the second team at right tackle. Going against more mature competition is a challenge, too, he added.
"Obviously, there are a lot of grown men out here," Smith said. "Getting the opportunity to see guys such as Leonard Little every day at defensive end, it's a big deal."
Long-snapper Chris Massey (calf) sat out Saturday's practices. Safety Oshiomogho Atogwe (hamstring) and wide receiver/returner Derek Stanley (knee) were limited. ... Three-year veteran Gary Gibson was added to the roster just before minicamp began, and fellow defensive tackle Mike Marquardt was released. ... Minicamp wraps up with a single practice Sunday morning.
Re: King works to re-establish himself
Practice is lookin good so far with our secondary and smith catching up to speed.
Re: King works to re-establish himself"I used to do scouting reports for the defensive backs on the opposing teams' offenses," King said. "It's one thing to be hurt and it's another thing to just be away from it all for a year. So I tried to stay around it as much as possible."
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