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Motivated rookie earns a spot with the team's best unit ..
By Joe Lyons
Rams defensive end Gerald Rivers was a junior at the University of Mississippi when the most influential person in his life, his grandmother, passed away.
Coping with the loss, Rivers lost his focus and ended up academically ineligible. He tried to recover, but not quickly enough to salvage his senior season at Ole Miss.
“I did everything the counselors told me I needed to do and they made sure all the paperwork was in place,’’ the 23-year-old recalled earlier this week. “I felt like I’d let my grandmother down and I was determined to make it right.’’
But about three weeks into last season, the NCAA denied Rivers’ appeal.
“I feel like God puts you through tests in life and this one definitely helped make me a better man,’’ he said. “Instead of getting down again, I took it as a challenge to go back to school and finish what I started. I got my degree and I went back to train in Georgia; I just kept grinding, working to get better.
“Not being able to play football, re-lit my passion for the game.’’
Rivers, an athletic end who stands 6 feet 5 and weighs 258 pounds, flashed that passion throughout training camp and the preseason, finishing as one of the team’s statistical leaders with 10 tackles and a sack.
“Making plays is what the NFL is all about,’’ he said.
Veteran defensive end Chris Long said Rivers made an excellent early impression.
“Preseason is a big deal for everybody to get their reps and get better, but it’s especially important for rookies to go out and make an impact,’’ Long said. “He made people take notice of him.’’
Rivers has fit in quickly with the Rams’ strongest units.
“To stick with this group, as deep as we are, it’s a testament to his talent and also to the way he approaches practice,’’ Long said. “He needs to work to keep getting better in all areas of his game, like any rookie, but to make this group is pretty impressive.
“We’re a tight-knit group – you can’t be sensitive and be part of our D-line – but he’s worked hard to fit in.’’
Rivers called securing a spot on the 53-man roster as “a blessing that keeps giving.’’
“I love the coaching staff and I love the guys I’m with,’’ he said. “I feel like I can learn a lot, continue to get better and make something of myself.’’
Rivers continued: “After feeling like I let my grandmother down, she became my motivation. Hopefully she’s looking down now and smiling.’’
The four players who have been on the Rams’ injury list all week – tight end Cory Harkey (knee), safety Darian Stewart (thigh) cornerback Quinton Pointer (thigh) and linebacker Jonathan Stewart (hip) – again sat out practice Friday and have been ruled out for Sunday.
For Arizona, tight end Rob Housler (ankle) has been ruled out.
After getting kicked in the thigh during practice Friday, defensive end Calais Campbell (quad) is questionable.
Wide receiver Andre Roberts (quad) was limited in practice Friday and is probable. The other probables on the list – cornerback Javier Arenas (hip), running back Andre Ellington (hamstring), tight end D.C Jefferson (knee), long snapper Mike Leach (hamstring), running back Rashard Mendenhall (knee) and defensive tackle Dan Williams (ankle) – all participated fully in Friday’s workout.
Two of the high-profile rookies in Sunday’s game – receiver Tavon Austin of the Rams and Arizona safety Tyrann Mathieu – last faced each other in September. 2011.
Mathieu and visiting LSU won 47-21 over Austin’s West Virginia squad, but the Rams’ No. 1 draft choice caught 11 passes for 187 yards, going at it with Mathieu through much of the game.
Mathieu, then also known as the Honey Badger, came up with a key interception and also forced a fumble. The Cardinals made him a third-round draft choice in April.
Safety Matt Giordano returned to practice early this week after missing training camp and preseason with a calf injury.
Rivers is great story that will continue to get better.
Re: Motivated rookie earns a spot with the team's best unit ..
While the Rivers article is a good read, i am more interested in the thigh injury to Calais Campbell, mentioned at the end of the article, suffered in practice friday. That matchup is a major concern for me (Campbell vs Saffold).
ramming speed to all
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