'Mr. Irrelevant' David Vobora gets first start for St. Louis Rams
By Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Saturday, Nov. 29 2008
The Rams will have a new face in the lineup plus a couple of familiar ones back
in action Sunday when the Miami Dolphins visit the Edward Jones Dome.
Rookie David Vobora will make his first start, taking over for Will Witherspoon
at middle linebacker. Witherspoon is nursing injuries to both shoulders and
will be used only on third downs and in the 2-minute defense, coach Jim Haslett
Orlando Pace will be back at left tackle after sitting out last week's game
with a knee ligament injury, and running back Steven Jackson is expected to
play after missing four of the past five games with a strained thigh.
Jackson practiced all week, stepping up the pace each day. After Friday's
practice, Haslett still was being cautious about Jackson's status. "I thought
he got better as the week went on," Haslett said. "I'll talk to him and we'll
make a decision by the game."
But team officials said Jackson will suit up and probably will start. Jackson
conceded that he'll have to guard against being tentative in his return.
"Yeah, that's the next thing," he said. "Although I'm practicing, I still want
to run through some arm tackles, drag some guys around. The leg strength is
there. … As the weeks go by, the confidence will come and the doubt in my mind
will leave as well."
Vobora, a 6-foot-1, 238-pound University of Idaho product, was the last pick in
April's draft, earning him the distinction of "Mr. Irrelevant." He was
activated from the practice squad Nov. 4 and has played in the past three
games, mostly on special teams.
He'll be the first "Mr. Irrelevant" to start a game in his rookie season since
1994, when Marty Moore made four starts at linebacker for the New England
"It's been a dream come true to get to this point, but there's no complacency,"
Vobora said. "I always want more, and this is a good opportunity to get in and
contribute and show, 'Hey, this is what I can do; this is what I bring to the
It's an opportunity that triggers a bit of anxiety, too, he acknowledged. "I
have 10 other guys depending on me, so I want to make sure that I'm in the
right spots," he said. "And when the play's there to make, make it."
Witherspoon, who had started all 43 games since signing a free-agent deal with
the Rams in 2006, declined to speak with reporters Friday.
With the Rams eliminated from playoff contention, Haslett plans over the final
five games to audition several players who haven't participated much on Sundays.
"We're going to find out what other guys can do," he said. "Anybody that's
dressed, we're going to try to take a look at them. ... This will give us a
chance to see them live, with the bullets flying."
Veteran wide receiver Torry Holt, whose role has been reduced this season with
the emergence of youngsters Donnie Avery, Keenan Burton and Derek Stanley,
endorsed that approach.
"I think it's great for the young players, and I think it's good for this
football team and for this organization as they move forward and see what their
plans are going to be here in the future," he said. "They have to take a look
and see who's going to be here, see who's going to help them out. …
"I'm looking forward to having the opportunity to watch some of them play."
Special-teams ace Gary Stills (back) left practice early. Haslett said that if
Stills can't play Sunday, newly signed linebacker Larry Grant will take his
spot on the 45-man roster. ... Stills has been fined $5,000 by the NFL as a
result of an unnecessary roughness penalty he received last Sunday vs. Chicago.
... Dolphins left tackle Jake Long, the first overall pick in April's draft,
participated fully in practice Friday. Long, who sprained his right ankle last
Sunday, will go head-to-head with Rams defensive end Chris Long, the No. 2
Re: 'Mr. Irrelevant' David Vobora gets first start for St. Louis Rams
No disrespect to Mr. Vobora, but you kind of have to think that the reason no Mr. Irrelevant has started in his rookie season in so long is because most teams make more of an effort to shore up their depth so they don't have to start late round draft picks.