Rams notebook: Healthy Kendricks expects big year

10 hours ago • By Joe Lyons jlyons@post-dispatch.com

A year ago, he was injured and biding his time. This year, Rams tight end Lance Kendricks is healthy and looking to take his game to another level.

Following offseason knee surgery, Kendricks was forced to sit out the entire 2013 preseason. Then, after an understandably slow start, he turned in a solid season as a blocker and also came through with 32 catches for 258 yards and four touchdowns.

“It’s great to be out there, making plays, making catches and hopefully building up some confidence as a team,’’ the fourth-year pro from the University of Wisconsin said after Tuesday’s training camp workout. “Last year was definitely frustrating, trying to get back into the rhythm after missing so much time. But this year, with OTAs and camp, we’ve been able to work together and just get the offense going.’’

Kendricks, a second-round draft pick in 2011, has been productive in limited preseason action this summer. He had two catches for 20 yards and took part in 13 offensive plays in the opening-week loss to New Orleans and was in on 12 offensive plays last weekend against Green Bay, coming away with two catches for 15 yards, including the home team’s lone touchdown.

On the 11-yard scoring play with 8:02 left in the first half, Kendricks ran a seam route down the middle and made the grab on a well-placed Sam Bradford pass with Packers safety Micah Hyde draped all over him.

“It’s a play we practice all the time. It’s an up-and-down ball, a timing throw,’’ Kendricks said. “Sam put it right on the money and I was able to make a great catch.’’

Added Rams coach Jeff Fisher: “That was a great throw and catch ... it’s a hard throw and a very, very difficult catch.’’

Kendricks, who posted career bests in receptions (42) and yards (519) in 2012, is part of a solid tight end crew that also features Jared Cook, who led the team last year with 51 catches for 671 yards and five touchdowns, and Cory Harkey, a third-year pro who finished last season with 13 catches for 113 yards and two scores.

“Me, ‘Hark’ and Jared, we all work together and we all push each other,’’ the 26-year-old Kendricks said. “We look to be the best tight end group in the league; that’s what we’re fighting for.

“And the young guys, Alex (Bayer), Justice (Cunningham and Brad Smelley), they’re all coming along and following our lead.’’

Kendricks continued: “We’re working hard, trying to get better. I’m just trying to expand my knowledge of the offense. Learning how to read defenses better and just trying to get open.’’

Kendricks isn’t surprised at all by Bradford’s strong start in the preseason.

“Sam’s a grinder, that’s what he does,’’ Kendricks said. “He did a great job of coming back stronger than he was and now he’s just trying to do what he can to rally the team to try and get a win in Week 1.’’

RAM-BLINGS

The Rams will hold their final open-to-the-public practice as training camp wraps up today beginning at 3:30 p.m.

• Tuesday’s practice was one of the hottest the Rams have experienced this year and produced some sloppy play.

Undrafted rookie free agent Jarrid Bryant, a 6-foot-3, 185-pound cornerback, was the standout in Tuesday’s workout. In a span of six or seven plays, he came up with a pair of interceptions and a pass breakup.

• Tuesday’s practice marked the return of several key players. Defensive tackle Michael Brockers practiced and took normal reps with the starters. Right guard Rodger Saffold did individual work while middle linebacker James Laurinaitis did some running on the side and defensive end William Hayes worked on the side with trainers.

Players not practicing included linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar, offensive linemen Mike Person, Demetrius Rhaney and Barrett Jones, defensive end Sammy Brown, defensive tackle Matt Conrath and cornerbacks E.J. Gaines, Darren Woodard and Brandon McGee.

• Receiver Tavon Austin wore No. 1 instead of his normal No. 11 on Tuesday. “Just a practice jersey,’’ he explained.

• The NFL and the NFL Players Association have agreed to expand practice squads from eight to 10 players for the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

• Rams legend Isiah Robertson, a six-time Pro Bowl linebacker, took in Tuesday’s practice.

“What an honor to have him in the building and out to practice,’’ Fisher said. “Really, really great career. You talk about his numbers and stats and everything. Remember watching him, (he) just played the game the way (you’re supposed to) play at the linebacker position.’’

• A scout for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League was on hand Tuesday. Last week, the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats scouted the Rams.