Langford Hoping for Happy Homecoming
Kendall Langford will carry no personal vendetta with him this weekend when he returns with the Rams to Miami to take on the team that drafted him in the place he spent his first four NFL seasons.
But make no mistake; the big defensive tackle is looking forward to returning to South Beach and playing in his former haunt on Sunday afternoon.
“I don’t want to say it’s anything personal,” Langford said. “At the end of the day, I know it’s a business and I’m just looking forward to the opportunity to go out there and show them what I’ve got.”
Langford first entered the NFL as a third-round pick, No. 66 overall, of Miami’s and grew into one of the team’s most productive defensive linemen during his four-year tenure with the club.
In his time in Miami, Langford served mostly as a five-technique (or end) in Miami’s 3-4 defense. He was stout against the run but also provided some pass rush punch as he racked up 141 tackles, eight sacks and four fumbles forced.
When Langford became eligible for free agency in the offseason, Miami chose not to pursue him with the vigor or the offer necessary to compete with the interest he received elsewhere, namely St. Louis.
In need of a powerful run stuffer with pass rush skills for the interior of their defensive line, the Rams moved quickly to ink Langford to a lucrative four-year deal. In the process, coach Jeff Fisher asked Langford to become a full fledged defensive tackle in his preferred 4-3 scheme.
By his own admission, the transition to the inside on a full time basis has come with some growing pains for Langford.
“I am gradually getting better and better, getting more comfortable at the position,” Langford said. “Am I where I want to be? No, not at all. I’m still taking the right steps forward. I want to continue taking those steps this week.”
Langford actually took perhaps his biggest step last week against Arizona when he played his best game as a Ram. In that contest, he posted four tackles, three quarterback pressures and two quarterback hits.
For the season, Langford now has 18 tackles, nine pressures and three quarterback hits but is still in search of his first sack as a Ram.
There’d be no better time and no better place than Sunday against his former team.
“I think it’s going to be exciting to go out and play the guys that were from my first team,” Langford said. : I kind of still know some of the guys down there but I am going against them. I know what they bring to the table, I know what I bring to the table and I just think it’s going to be fun.”
HEKKER HONORED: For the second consecutive week, a Rams rookie specialist has earned NFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors. This time, it’s punter Johnny Hekker following in the footsteps – pun unmercifully intended – of kicker Greg Zuerlein.
Hekker, who shares an apartment with Zuerlein, may need to find some more shelf space for the apartment but said he wasn’t sure yet what the award looked like.
“I’m not sure,” Hekker said. “We haven’t seen Greg’s award so we are not sure how much shelf space we are going to need but I guess once we get that we’ll know.”
Hekker set a franchise record for gross punting in a game last week when he averaged 56.9 gross yards against Arizona. He also had a strong net average of 46 yards on seven attempts.
“I felt good,” Hekker said. “I put the foot to the ball really well and hit a couple of good balls. It’s great it worked out like that; it’s not going to happen every game. I wish I could have my expectations set that high but I am just trying to do the best I can for this team to try to help us win some games and win the field position battle.”
It’s probably safe to say that the duo of Hekker and Zuerlein is the first pair of roommates to win the award in back to back weeks. But Hekker is the first to acknowledge that he couldn’t do it alone.
“Yeah, I think that’s safe to say,” Hekker said. “I would still just like to tip my hat to the protection and the guys that were covering those punts. They did a hell of a job and they worked so hard to be where they are so I know they deserve the award more than I do.”
FISHER’S WEEKEND: Rams coach Jeff Fisher excused his team from any football related activities over the weekend, allowing for days off on Saturday, Sunday and Monday before returning to work on Tuesday.
But the players weren’t the only ones allowed to get a weekend getaway.
“I went down and watched Arkansas defeat the Auburn University Tigers,” Fisher said. “Painful to watch. I did enjoy the weekend.”
Fisher’s son Trent is a safety and special teams player for the Tigers.
INJURY REPORT: The Rams injury report was a lot shorter Wednesday than it was last week at this time though it might be most notable for those that weren’t on the list than those that were.
Receiver Danny Amendola (shoulder), linebacker Mario Haggan (thigh), fullback Brit Miller (ankle) and tackle Rodger Saffold (knee) did not participate in practice.
Amendola, Haggan and Saffold are expected to miss this week’s game but Miller’s status remains to be seen.
Defensive tackle Matt Conrath (knee), end William Hayes (back) and end Eugene Sims (head) were limited participants.
Safety Matt Daniels (hamstring) was listed as a full participant.
Perhaps the best news is that running back Steven Jackson (groin) and safety Quintin Mikell (head) were nowhere to be found on the report and went through the entire practice.
Mikell suffered a blow to the head against Arizona and did not return but benefited from the time off and proclaimed himself fine soon after.
Jackson had been battling a groin injury but also had been working with improved health in recent weeks.